The great success in recent years of singer/pianists Diana Krall and Shirley Horn reflects a growing appreciation for class-act, adult-oriented music, and more specifically, the revival of the jazz diva in our musical culture. Finding a cozy and intimate niche in the generation between those of Horn and Krall, Chris Bennett charmed the jazz and pop worlds in 1997 with Less Is More, a passionate ode to the popular song featuring a blend of timeless standards and original material. Any great jazz singer knows, however, that the truest essence of the art form emerges in the live setting, where spontaneity takes hold and artist and audience connect visually, aurally, and more importantly, in the heart. Over the years, Bennett -- whose diverse career includes songwriting, film, and video scoring as well as successful stints as a backing vocalist -- has had the opportunity to travel and perform in exotic locales like Bangkok, Japan, and Tahiti. After playing Berlin's prestigious Jazz Festival in an English Garden, she's been invited back in the past three years since to pack them in at Berlin's popular A-Trane club. Recorded from several performances during her record breaking, weeklong-stint there in 1998, Live in Berlin -- featuring six originals and spirited interpretations of six standards -- captures Chris Bennett at her passionate, charismatic best. This recording finds Bennett playing with the cream of the crop among German musicians, who enhance both her stellar vocal delivery and strong jazz piano chops. Bennett works some marvelously intricate instrumental duo passages with alto saxophonist Armando Castagnoli, while the often lively rhythmic foundations are created by bassist Stephane Weeke and drumer Ernst Bier. Helmut Bruger plays synth and piano on several tracks, and Ms. Bobbye Hall later adds some well-placed percussion overdubs back in Bennett's Los Angeles studio. Included in Bennett's repertoire are a lively, swinging take on Gershwin's "Nice Work If You Can Get It"; a sparsely arranged, graceful look at Hoagy Carmichael and Johnny Mercer's classic "Skylark"; "My Foolish Heart"; the Rodgers and Hart gem "You Took Advantage of Me"; and the quintessential Mercer/Harold Arlen heartbreak of "One for My Baby." Among the singer's powerful originals are the opening track "Shimmy Softly" (a steamy, Brazilian-flavored island love fantasy) and an eloquent presentation of the "Theme From Midnight Express," which earned Bennett and co-writer Giorgio Moroder a Grammy nomination as Best Composition for a Motion Picture.
AllMusic Review by Jonathan Widran