This collection from Stacey Kent fairly bubbles with playful creativity. Helmed by her husband Jim Tomlinson (saxophones and flute), the collection of standards, pop tunes and new songs have, oxymoronically, a brisk languidness; they don’t mess about, but they do so with a relaxed, happy, contented vibe.
The involvement of Kazuo Ishiguro, the Anglo-Japanese novelist and friend of Kent’s is a markedly different angle to a jazz album – the four songs he contributes are Noel Coward-esque in their wordplay, and dazzling in their subtlety. “The Ice Hotel”, which opens the album, twinkles with knowing sexuality, inverted in the Arctic. With a humorous nod and a wink, Ishiguro’s words fit the shuffling slink arranged by Tomlinson, setting the tone for the album.
Kent’s voice, in English or French (on “C’est Petits Riens”, “Samba Saravah” and “La Saison des Pluies”) is a joy – controlled, but sweet and playful when necessary – and has a seductive quality. The highest compliment that one can pay both Ishiguro and Kent is that these songs, with her voice, stand with the standards on this album, shoulder to shoulder.
Ishiguro’s other songs, the reminiscence that is “I Wish I Could Go Travelling Again”, with its whirlwind memories of trekking the globe, the heartbreaking “So Romantic” and the simply genius title track, are the tracks that stick in the mind. The Stevie Nicks cover, “Landslide”, is without doubt a slickly done piece, but the song just doesn’t fit with the whole feel of the album, and is the least jazzy of all the cuts.
The two Serge Gainsbourg pieces are interesting contrasts – “C’est Petits Rien” is all shuffle, groove and plucked strings, whereas “La Saison des Pluies” is quiet, reflective and rather sad; quite unlike the rollicking track which precedes it, the standard “Hard Hearted Hannah”. The most smoky and barroom of the tracks, and the closest to blues, this really swings, with almost parodic pianos and relatively ‘big’ vocals from Kent.
Interestingly, the other standards don’t hold up so well – perhaps the fact that Ishiguro’s words and Tomlinson’s music for them is so much personal, considering the connections between the three – although “What a Wonderful World” is so hard to mess up, it’s a perfectly nice listen.
Most definitely a disc for a lazy Sunday afternoon with the papers, or indeed, breakfast on the tram; you just can’t help but fall for her voice.
Key Tracks: The Ice Hotel/I Wish I Could Go Travelling Again/Breakfast on the Morning Tram/Heard Hearted Hannah