The songbooks of Dylan, Lennon and McCartney, Paul Simon, Tom Waits, Joni Mitchell and Laura Nyro have all been well-mined by jazz artists. But Sarah Partridge is the first to excavate the equally rich Janis Ian oeuvre. Partridge met Ian in an online group of Grammy voters and ignited the idea. Thrilled with the prospect of a gifted jazz vocalist reinventing tunes spanning her five-decade career, Ian provided full cooperation, even co-crafting two new compositions. Nor did Partridge scrimp on sidemen, with seven top-drawer players anchored by pianist Allen Farnham and drummer Tim Horner (who, between them, wrote all 13 excellent arrangements). The results are a stunning reminder of the significance of both talents.
Ian remains best known for “Society’s Child,” her searing portrait of racial discrimination from 1966, and 1975’s “At Seventeen,” her heartbreaking ode to teenage outcasts. Partridge does both estimable justice, further saluting Ian the enduring warrior with “Tattoo,” tracing the permanent scars of Holocaust victims, and “Matthew,” an indictment of Matthew Shepard’s horrific murder. The balance of the playlist blends the familiar with the new, extending from the melancholy reflection of “Belle of the Blues” to the sweet devotion of Ian’s just-completed “Forever and a Day.” As for the collaborations, Ian guest duets on the delightful kiss-off “A Quarter Past Heartache,” while “Somebody’s Child” probes the lost world of the disenfranchised, reminding us that all unfortunate souls were once hope-filled children.