New York Voices: New York Voices Live

While it can easily be argued that the Manhattan Transfer remains the gold standard for jazz vocal groups, New York Voices must be considered of platinum hue, if only because of the comparative scarcity of their recorded work. Last year marked the Voices’ 25th anniversary, though what began as a quintet didn’t take shape as the current foursome-Peter Eldridge, Kim Nazarian, Darmon Meader and Lauren Kinhan-until 1994. Over the years, the four had, individually and collectively, guested on a slew of projects by other artists and scored several solo achievements, but as a group their entire output totaled just six albums, the most recent already more than a half-decade old. And the closest they’d come to a live album is their participation in the Count Basie Orchestra’s Grammy-winning Live at the Manchester Craftsmen’s Guild in 1999.

In short, this 75-minute concert recording with the 18-member WDR Big Band Cologne, captured in that German city in May 2008, is both welcome and overdue. Among the 10 selections, three are drawn from the then-fairly-new A Day Like This, with another two from The New York Voices Sing the Songs of Paul Simon, including the sizzling “Baby Driver” that opens this date. New to the Voices’ repertoire are a slithery “Love Me or Leave Me” with Kinhan taking lead, a sprightly “Almost Like Being in Love,” and, with Meader out front, a superbly tight treatment of Annie Lennox’s “Cold.” New too, in a sense, are two gems that date from the group’s pre-quartet days: a masterful, multilayered “Stolen Moments” and the dazzlingly cacophonous bounty that is Meader and Eldridge’s 12-minute closer, “The Sultan Fainted.”