When you see a new recording of Gershwin songs there is a part of you that goes, "Oh no not again!" Just how many versions of "I've Got a Crush On You" can one person endure in his or her life? It is like that endless onslaught of Christmas music we are forced to smile at each holiday season, while we check off the days on the calender until it finally comes to an end. I think the Geneva convention has a rule about this kind of behavior doesn't it? Well, get ready music lovers; here comes another one. Melody Breyer-Grell's Fascinatin Rhythms on the Rhombus Records label is the latest entry in a long, (and I mean long) list of Gershwin recordings. And you know what? This is a good one, I mean a really good one; one of those heartfelt well done recordings that makes you stop and listen.
Breyer-Grell has a very compelling voice, at times soft and low, enticing you to listen, and then it can soar to heights that make you shake your head in wonder. This is more than just a tribute album, in fact, to call it that would be to trivialize it, to reduce it to less than what it is. This is an album of songs that are as timely now as they were when first introduced. Even though they are all recognizable to anyone who has not been on Mars for the last twenty years, there is something new about them all. The opening number "Somebody Loves Me" was a first take done without rehearsal, just voice and the expert playing of Don Braden on saxophone. After you hear this number you'll say to yourself, "If that was without any rehearsal imagine how good the rest of this is going to be once they had time to practice!"
There are moments here and there that sound a little less polished than others but that is not a negative, in fact, it is in those moments that some of the best performances come from. It is like being center stage at one of those smoky nightclubs at about three in the morning when things have just really gotten good. You are carried along on a seamless wave of music and emotional honesty that gives the album its flavor. Fascinatin Rhythms is a more than one casual listen album; it is one of those recordings that comes along every once in a while that remind you why you listen to jazz in the first place. It is the kind you listen to when you are in love or just out of it or could care less about it, this recording just seems to fit no matter what.
Melody Breyer-Grell is a new find and one that it can be strongly suggested you pay attention to. In fact, if you would like to hear what this singer can do with a wider variety of composers, try her first recording The Right Time. Ms. Breyer-Grell, legend has it, was an office temp while getting her start in music; those days are over and a very bright future awaits her in music, and that is good news for us.