New England blossoms with outstanding vocalists of the feminine persuasion. There's Donna Byrne, Carol Akerson, Krisanthi Pappas, and Monica Hatch. Hatch's second album is piled high with great tunes played by some of the best jazzers in the business. Hatch is a classically trained singer, having studied with the great Eleanor Steber. Unlike others (Helen Traubel) who have made forays into jazzy popular music, Hatch has been able to utilize those special qualities of a good classical singer -- perfect pitch, attention to lyrical detail, an understanding of the importance of phrasing, emphasis, and timing -- with the improvisational flair of a jazzy singer. Blessed with a pure, crystalline mountain lake voice, Hatch works her will with a musical agenda of mostly standards (in fact, all but one). The holdout is "If I Love Again," written for the 1932 musical Hold Your Horses. Done in medium tempo by Hatch, its catchy words and toe-tapping personality make it one of the highlights of the album. Her classical background comes to the fore on the ballad material, especially on a haunting, sensuous "Beautiful Love." Hatch goes at this tune in the same way she might sing one of the sultry arias from Bizet's Carmen. "I'm Confessin'" allows a few bars of scatting, befitting one of Steber's students. Another outstanding track is the melancholy "You Go to My Head," garnished by the dubbed-in harmonica of icon Toots Thielemans. The Belgian jazz star is just one of the jazz celebrities Hatch has managed to coax to the studio. Gary Foster's sax and flute also make major contributors. There's an all-Boston rhythm section with Tony Zano on piano. Marshall Wood, who is always on Donna Byrne's (his wife's) albums, and Jim Gwin, who has drummed for many Boston singers, have worked together on other occasions and provide the basic foundation for the session. Jon Wheatley's no-smear guitar is featured on such cuts as "Everything I Have Is Yours." Recommended.
Lady of Hearts Review
by Dave Nathan