Now she has.
One wonders why it took her so long. Marshall has developed a distinctive voice, which becomes a recognizably consistent element through all of the tracks. Nonetheless, she can vary it to meet the emotional exigencies of the song. Her memorable version of Ornette Coleman’s "Lonely Woman," delivered as an exciting narrative drama embellished by Andy Ballantyne’s sax work, for example, is entirely different from the bawdiness of "Good Daddy Blues," her straightforward but enjoyable tribute to Dinah Washington. Indeed, Marshall shares some of Washington’s vocal characteristics, and no doubt she spent many hours listening to her. On "Happiness Is a Thing Called Joe," Marshall builds the song through understatement and longing, gliding into a note or adding ending a phrase with a decorative waver or clipping off a note after a swoop, reminiscent of the techniques of many singers before her, including Washington. After the instrumental chorus, Marshall takes the song up a notch, coming in with even greater force as she builds to a satisfying conclusion. Then with equal effectiveness, Marshall roughens the character of her voice, growling and singing at a greater volume to get across the possessiveness of "I Put a Spell on You."
The other constant on The Sweetest Sounds is the presence of guitarist Mike Cadó, who plays on all of the tracks, even as other musicians like Guido Basso or John MacMurchy appear on just a few selected tracks. No doubt Marshall and Cadó have spent much time performing together, for Cadó is the album’s producer and he shared the mixing duties as well. Marshall’s and Cadó’a combined sound is light and responsive. Together, they lend appropriate rhythm to a samba or rubato development for ballads as Cadó lays down the chords behind her, fulfilling the harmonic suggestions but never overpowering. Still, Cadó shares the arranging duties with Ballantyne, Rob Thaller and Patricia Wheeler, in whose octet Marshall sang. While some of the arrangements like "Do Something" provide welcome variety, in this case a traditional jazz excursion involving MacMurchy’s clarinet witticisms, other arrangements like "Dreamsville’s" evolves into oddities like a "Sailor’s Hornpipe" quote after its agreeably calm and pensive beginning.
The overall effect of The Sweetest Sounds, after all is sung and done, is that of a versatile and confident singer who deserves more recognition as an effective interpreter of song.