Louise Rogers

Bass-ically Speaking

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Relatively few jazz vocalists have been confident enough to sing with only a bass to accompany them throughout an entire album. Fortunately, Louise Rogers has a pure voice that is adaptable to a wide range of material, from ballads to uptempo bop and even classical music, while Rick Strong (who alternates between acoustic and electric basses) provides the perfect supporting line in each case. Rogers is at her very best on the bop-oriented material, revisiting Annie Ross' hilarious adaptation of Wardell Gray's "Twisted" and getting the most out of Oscar Brown, Jr.'s childlike lyrics to Bobby Timmons' "Dat Dere" (while acknowledging Sheila Jordan's duo recording with bassist Steve Swallow), excelling with each of them. The vocalist uncovers a lost gem with the bop gem "Bass-ically Speaking," recorded previously by the Singers Unlimited (a fine vocal quartet that is unjustly overlooked). She scats in unison with the bass in a terrific scoring of "Autumn Leaves" that was inspired by the late Bill Evans' well-known recording. Rogers and Strong add just a touch of jazz to their stunning version of "Shenandoah," a favorite piece of American folk music. Her haunting treatment of classical composer Manuel de Falla's "Nana" is sensational, showcasing the beauty of her upper range. There are a few rough spots. An impressive take of "Willow Weep for Me" is undermined somewhat by the occasional addition of overdubbed harmony vocals. Singer/songwriter Jonatha Brooke's poppish "Angel in the House" and the limpid ballad "Peace on Earth" (composed by pseudo-jazz vocalist Rachelle Ferrell) aren't really suitable choices for the gifted Ms. Rogers. But this mostly laudable duo date should turn a few heads; hopefully, Louise Rogers' partnership with Rick Strong will be long-lasting and productive.

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