Barbara Jean started her professional music career as a country-rock bass player, and she used to kick "butt six nights a week in Phoenix trucker bars." Now in Buffalo, she has morphed into a song writer and singer in a style popular over 50 years ago; she cites "the tradition of Cole Porter and the Gershwins." Jean has a decent voice, a good ear, and an easy style with jazzy phrasing. Unfortunately, not all goes well with her first album. Sweet lives up to its name–too much so for most jazz fans. A few jolts inspired by that butt-kicking past would have improved the session and her song writing.
There are positives. Almost all the tunes are originals in the style of the Great American Song Book. I can imagine a few of them sung by Ray Eberle with the Glen Miller band or Barbara Jean herself as the "girl" singer with Jimmy Dorsey. The sensual "Rhythm of Love" is especially strong.
And a few lyrics are unusual and clever, "As we finished our fries, I saw love in your eyes." But these are scattered among lines hipper 1940s band-leaders would have choked on–"My love is true and here to stay." And "I dream of a dream so nice."!?
The quartet accompanying on all but one track sounds professional and is smoothly in the style.
Yet, despite the positives, there's an amateurish feel to the session, right down to a slightly out-of-tune piano. Too many melodies, changes and lyrics are clichés. And a few choices are just embarrassing, including an attempt to swing through "Row, Row, Row Your Boat," and a bit of scatting on "What This Is." Might work with a well-oiled café crowd, but not on a recording.
Catch her show in Buffalo; pass on the CD. For an updated version of Swing Era romance, try Harry Connick, Jr.