A major concern constantly expressed by contemporary jazz singers is the lack of new, interesting material to record. They don't like always having to fall back on standards and traditional material due to the lack of better options out there. Today's jazz singers should take a look at the songs penned by Californian Mary Ann Douglas. The lyrics not only tell a story, but the stories are interesting, often fervent, and always to the point. The structure of her music accommodates arrangements that are both absorbing and substantive. And there is sufficient variety to sustain the attention of both performer and listener.
All of these features are present on True Stories, Douglas' debut release. "Love Is a Feeling Thing" is a bouncy story about the trials, tribulations, and uncertainties of falling in love. Neither pessimistic nor especially optimistic, it's just the facts. "It's Love That I Have Missed" has a bit of beach music feel about it, and is similar to material Connie Francis used to sing in the 1950s; however, the song is better written, revealing the influence of Van Morrison and Joni Mitchell on Douglas. For variety, Douglas adds a dash of vocalese with "Jack."
Major contributions to the album are made by the musicians who appear with the songstress. Mike Wofford, one of the more undervalued pianists on today's scene, is an accomplished accompanist and arranger. His pianism and leadership are the backbone of this session. Bob Magnusson's bass has graced the albums of many a top jazz artist, from Art Pepper to Sue Raney. Jim Plank's drums provide a steady beat without being overly loud. Gary Pack's Miles Davis-influenced muted trumpet provides a pleasant backdrop on "Destiny." Dan Papaila's guitar and John Rekevics' sax have their say on virtually every track.
While it is usually a risky endeavor for a singer to limit her maiden album to her own compositions, in this case it pays off handsomely. These are tunes other singers would be wise to make note of. To make it easier, the lyrics are printed in the liner notes. Recommended.