Tina May's ninth album for Britain's 33Jazz label is a live performance from one of Paris' most coveted jazz venues, the Jazz Club Lionel Hampton. It's also déjà vu for May. She used to perform there with two of her playing partners on this set, Patrick Villanueva and Pascal Gaubert, while a student in the City of Light in the 1980s. It was during those days that May began working as a chanteuse and laid the foundation for what has become an extraordinary jazz singing career.
The play list is typically varied and adventurous. There are a couple of classic and jazz standards, modern contemporary and Latin rhythms, and some originals, all of which May carries off with ease and aplomb, all with the excitement that only performing before an audience can bring. "After the Love" is a freewheeling, wild excursion with May flying along on a vocal roller coaster while Gaubert's sax provides the swoops and swirls. Nowhere is her well-honed ability to use the voice as a horn shown to better advantage than on Thelonious Monk's "Well You Needn't." Her trading fours with Gaubert is in the same league as the strong connection another English vocal doyenne, Cleo Laine, has established with sax player John Dankworth. But May goes further. Her scatting takes on the sound of a soprano sax, then an alto, dropping to the lower register of a tenor sax and then up and down again. Quite amazing and dazzling. She easily moves from the impressionistic to Ray Bryant's 1958 "One Fine Day," done as a sizzling samba. "Only Time Will Tell" has her singing a duet with herself through the use of overdubbing. But it's "Take the 'A' Train" that showcases May's penchant for turning a song recorded many times into something so fresh it feels like a debut recording. Villanueva opens with Ellington's familiar piano intro and May recalls the 1951 Betty Roche rendition with Ellington, then segues into some heart-stopping Ella Fitzgerald-like scatting with smatterings of quotes from "Crazy Rhythm," "Sweet Georgia Brown," "Lazy River," and more. Gaubert's sax takes on a Paul Gonsalves feel with an extended solo followed by more of the same by Villanueva. This performance has all the trappings of an impromptu jam session...with singer. This CD is more good stuff from Tina May and is recommended.