|Loverly & Before Love Has Gone|
By Willard Manus
Lovers of jazz vocals have got quite a treat in store. Make that two treats: L0VERLY and BEFORE LOVE HAS GONE. These new CDs, sung respectively by Cassandra Wilson and Stevie Holland, are noteworthy in every respect. Both singers are major artists who can't be faulted for their interpretations of jazz standards and (in Holland's case) original songs, and each is backed up by musicians of the highest caliber, not to speak of faultless arrangements and production values.
Wilson's warm, husky voice (and the teasing, sexy quality that imbues it) dominates LOVERLY, which focuses mostly on slow, classic ballads like Lover Come Back to Me and Gone With the Wind, but also manages to swing, fast and hot, on Caravan and Dust My Broom, the Robert Johnson classic. Among the musicians backing Wilson are percussionist Lekan Babalola and pianist Jason Moran.
Stevie Holland also concentrates on ballads (How Deep Is the Ocean, Lazy Afternoon), which she delivers with scrupulous attention to the lyrics, making them sound fresh and appealing. The perfect pitch of her voice and its bell-like clarity are the obvious reasons why many critics consider her the finest young vocalist on the jazz scene today. That she also writes quality songs (with her husband/arranger, Gary William Friedman)--such as Before Love Has Gone and The Music In Me That Plays--are further reasons why she is verging on the brink of stardom.