Who's breaking through most as a jazz singer from the next generation? Step forward Meg Bird who stands more than a chance if tracks such as 'Not Yet a Lion,' a deft conversation between initially bass-and-voice and even more convincingly the singer's interplay with Alexandra Ridout on trumpet, are typical.
And so the whole thing proves on this first foray of a statement of intent produced by the acclaimed classic jazz singer Claire Martin there's a confidence and understated swagger here on Betty Carter's 'Droppin' Things' which opens proceedings. The album title is inspired by a poem of Elisabeth Hewer's.
Londoner Bird attended the Guildhall School of Music and Drama graduating with a top class degree last year and here she is accompanied discreetly by pianist Jay Verma, bassist Seth Tackaberry, as mentioned earlier trumpeter Alex Ridout and drummer Harry Ling. The album includes a bull's eye of a choice in Carla Bley's 'Permanent Wave' and an understated, almost deadpan, version of Paul Simon's 'Still Crazy After all These Years' which works.
More razzle-dazzle at least as far as it gets anywhere on the album is Bird's version of Bob Merrill and Jule Styne Funny Girl song 'Don't Rain on My Parade'. But Bird, who reminds me a little of Polly Gibbons when she was first starting out, seems more at home when the atmosphere is more melancholic. That's when the Bley treatment inures itself most of all. The singer's own 'Reason to Return' is nimble and exultant and allows Bird to find parts of her register that we hadn't heard at least thus far on the album.
Pick of all for me is the version of 'When Sunny Gets Blue,' the Marvin Fisher and Jack Segal song first introduced by Johnny Mathis with Ray Conniff and His Orchestra in 1956. Bird's treatment of Showboat song 'Nobody Else But Me' also has a winning skip to it. So, a textbook way all in all to introduce yourself to the jazz-listening public particularly the subset hard wired to anything touched by the Great American Songbook. New classic jazz singers as accomplished as Bird obviously is already don't come along every day of the week. SG