Has there ever been a vocal recording of any kind featuring a repertoire as diverse as compositions by Henry Purcell, Fletcher Henderson, Charles Mingus, Ornette Coleman, Led Zeppelin and Anthony Braxton? Singer-arranger-lyricist Mary LaRose deserves kudos merely for her courage in embarking on such a project, and even more for how impressively she executes it in collaboration with her husband, reed player and co-arranger Jeff Lederer, keyboardist Jamie Saft, trombonist Steve Swell, bassist Cameron Brown and percussionist Matt Wilson. Listeners uncomfortable with outside harmonic and rhythmic devices are advised to start with LaRose’s lively, gutbucket renovation of Henderson’s “Trombone Butter,” a Bessie Smith song retailored to suit the singer’s crisp, youthful voice. Then on to Purcell’s “Dido’s Lament,” the Zeppelin and Lennon-McCartney retrofittings, and the Johnny Griffin-Eddie Jefferson vocalese “Soft & Furry,” after which the ranks will probably start thinning as LaRose and Lederer enter Coleman-Dolphy-Braxton country. Even those who fail to cross the freedom finish line will be impressed by the imagination and musicianship displayed throughout this CD, especially on its title track, a poetic, Ornette Coleman-inspired portrait of a homeless woman’s last days.
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