Vocalist Lin McPhillips, who was born into a musical family, grew up in Monterey, California. She began singing on the radio at the age of five and professionally in nightclubs by the age of 18. Later work singing at college campuses was followed by jingle, commercial and voice over work. These days she works in the San Francisco Bay area.
The strength of her new recording, a collection of songs dedicated and prompted by the loss of many of her friends, is the arrangements. Whether McPhillips or guitarist and co-producer Scott Sorkin wrote them, they shared the duties, all of the arrangements are all equally wonderful. The light rhythm section tracks, when combined with flutes and occasional saxophone, trumpet and/or string lines, are always handled tastefully. Of special note is the backing on "When April Comes Again," "I’m Old Fashioned" and "Azure - Azure-te." In these, as well as on the other tracks, the smoothly swinging backgrounds enhance to a degree many other arrangers should learn. They supplement and augment rather than call attention to themselves in the most resplendent of musical manners.
As a guitarist Sorkin is absolutely superb. He knows how to play just the right notes at just the right time; there is an art to knowing when three notes and not 20 are the perfect way to accompany. Akira Tana’s drumming is equally musical. It’s one thing to play behind a vocalist and it’s another to understand what it means to play behind a vocalist; Tana is the later. By his giving just the barebones structure of time to the proceedings McPhillips is given the freedom she needs when she takes liberties with the time and placement of consonants.
As a vocalist McPhillips has a nice lilt to her lines and her intonation is superb. When she sings in duet with Rich Girard’s bass on "Old Fashioned" or with the ensemble on Charlie Parker’s "Au Privave," the melding of the voice and other instruments is exquisite. Whether, on this recording, McPhillips is a jazz singer, is debatable. Here her use of slight over emphasizations is more in line with cabaret work and reminiscent of the late work of Alberta Hunter and, at times, Eartha Kitt. There is no shame in this, in fact in many ways it is harder to be a good cabaret singer; in cabaret you must know how to shape a lyric in a way so that it is personal to the audience, where in jazz one must shape the lyric in a way to make it personal to the singer. In this regard McPhillips strikes gold.