Whitney Marchelle: Me, Marsalis, & Monk

Intriguing title, but it’s not a 3M trio: Marsalis is represented by an arrangement of one of his originals; three of the ten songs were written by Monk. The notes are vague, but then the sound seems uneven, having been engineered at five disparate venues — a fact touted by Etoile as “recorded nationally.” Yet I gladly recommend it.

Ms Marchelle lends a strong, rangy voice to an ambitious undertaking, and you don’t have to be an audiophile to appreciate good music. It’s good right from the top.

“Savannah” begins with a serpentine bass lick over which Marchelle literally floats. She soon displays her jazz chops as she scats along with tenorist Don Diego in a fine duet. Another highlight is apparently a well-kept secret: Monk’s beautifully re-harmonized line, “Pannonica,” made even richer, thanks to Jon Hendricks’ lyrics. Another Hendricks-style lyric can be heard on Marchell Jackson’s “What Jazz Is.”

Instrumental highlights include two contributions by trombonist Gordon Wycliffe, growling on another Monk/Hendricks collaboration, “In Walked Bud,” and “plunging” on a Marsalis chart of his own on today’s New Orleans sound, “Loose Duck.” The latter track also boasts a fine soprano sax solo by Patience Higgins. “Bud” also features the humorously swinging trumpeting of Clark Terry. One more kudo, but I don’t have a name: there’s an uncredited altoist who adds so much to “‘Round Midnight” as gap-filler and soloist. He does not deserve anonymity.

The converse of that involves Whitney Marchelle’s credits. She shows her many facets extremely well: a singer of pop tunes; a swinger of immense energy; a fearless scat artist, able to handle

overdubbing flawlessly; and she even plays piano on a couple of tracks.