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Devoted to You by Gloria Cooper

Jazz vocalist/pianist, Gloria Cooper, adds a veteran's voice to the mainstream jazz idiom with her second release, Dedicated to You. In this collection of instrumental music written by jazz composers and musicians, Cooper includes a vocal rendering to the work of such greats as Hank Mobely, Renee Rosnes, and Tommy Turrentine, as well as standards from the pens of Harold Arlen and Johnny Mercer.

The pianist has a post-bop style that reflects the voices of McCoy Tyner, Bill Evans, Gene Harris, and other greats, revealing the depth and extent of her grasp of the idiom. She lays down her performances in a simple but not simplistic manner, as with any top-drawer player she makes these challenging performances sound easy. Don't let it fool you, there's maturity in her performance that is technically sound and highly imaginative. There is something special about pianists who also sing, they have the ideal accompaniment in their own playing. Yet Cooper doesn't rely on that alone, rather, she's invited a cadre of skillful players to render these rich arrangements created by pianist Cooper and trumpeter Don Sickler (who also acts as Producer).

Cooper's voice is clear, her articulation precise, and she has a penchant for long, lean lines that gracefully bind the arrangements together. Like the entire sound of the CD, Cooper creates space with her vocal delivery, creating a fluid and gentle mood.

The two horn arrangements galvanize the full ensemble sound, which features the vocal lines written into the arrangements rather than a distinct vocal on top. Saxophonist, Wayne Escoffery, and trumpeter, Don Sickler, have a symbiosis that's hard to beat and add the sheen on this gleaming piece of work. Guitarist Freddy Bryant, who is clearly versed in the masters, offers a loose, gentle touch to the many contemporary Latin feels, and at times captures the soul of Neves and the heart of Pizzarelli and Ellis. Bassist Tim Givens is an empathetic player who supplies a solid bottom end with drummer, Vince Cherico. The whole is recorded, mixed and mastered by the best in the biz, Rudy Van Gelder, who once again creates a masterpiece of engineering with a warmth and presence.

The bulk of the recording has a Latin underpinning, with up-tempo swing and swing ballads rounding out the balance. In a similar fashion to Jon Hendrick's versions of Monk's work, many of the song titles have been changed to reflect the vocal addition. "Just a Little Boy" by Brazilian master Sergio Mihanovich, begins with piano/voice, illustrating the strength of a player supporting their own vocal. The ballad is further enhanced by the brilliant piano solo the artist delivers, and the golden horn of trumpeter, Sickler. "Garden in the Sand," written by Hank Mobely with lyrics by Bebe Herring, was originally entitled "Bossa De Luxe," and has a relaxed Latin ballad feel. The sole blues offering "Something Unusual" is one of the few swing ballad feels on the CD. The artist contributes one of her own compositions, co-written with Ira Gitler, "Reveling in the Beat," an up-tempo Latin with a playful melody and a great guitar solo. Trumpeter Tommy Turrentine's "Glo's Theme" becomes "Big Brown Eyes" with the addition of L. Aziza Miller's vocal, and offers a hard swinging feel with superb brushwork by drummer Cherico, who trades fours with bassist Givens. My personal favourite, "Without You," was written by Canadian pianist Renee Rosnes. Originally entitled "Malaga Moon," the composition receives the new title with the addition of lyrics by Shelly Brown, and is a sparse, sensitive read of this gorgeous composition. Saxophonist Escoffery contributes a standout tenor solo on this track.

Dedicated to You is a first-rate recording in the mainstream jazz idiom, and will inspire you to put your feet up, close your eyes, and drift into a sea of soft Latin grooves created by the gifted Gloria Cooper. Recommended.

Additional Info

  • Artist / Group Name: Gloria Cooper
  • CD Title: Devoted to You
  • Genre: Jazz Vocals
  • Year Released: 2005
  • Record Label: Origin Records
  • Tracks: All My Love, Especially For You, Just a Little Boy, Garden in the Sand, Two Reflect as One, Dedicated to You, Seabreeze, Something Unusual, You Never Leave My Mind, Reveling in the Beat, Big Brown Eyes, Without You, Come Rain or Come Shine
  • Musicians: Gloria Cooper (vocal, piano), Don Sickler (trumpet, flugelhorn), Wayne Escoffery (soprano, tenor saxophones), Freddie Bryant (guitar), Tim Givens (bass), Vince Cherico (drums)
  • Rating: Four Stars
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