Madman's Moon

Rebecca Shrimpton

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Madman's Moon Review

by Fran├žois Couture

Jazz fans hoping for something more creative than the mainstream have pretty much given up on vocal jazz, especially when it comes to female singers. But there is hope: on Madman's Moon, Rebecca Shrimpton proves that it is possible to inhabit the standard torch songs without oversexualizing them and to present them in arrangements that don't dumb things down to easy-to-follow chord changes. Shrimpton and guitarist Eric Hofbauer (himself a very peculiar arranger, as his solo CD of cover tunes, American Vanity, testifies) make a tight-knit team. He constantly eschews the obvious paths, piggybacking on different scales, skipping beats, challenging the singer to fully invest herself in the song instead of just following the accompanist. Yet, the focus is mostly on Shrimpton's voice, and for all the right reasons. Precise, flexible, and alluring, her voice raptures, but she doesn't overplay the sensuality note. Too many singers use that card again and again to compensate for a lack of technique or imagination. Shrimpton's sensuality is fully embedded in her vocal technique and in her mastery of the art of singing (highlighted words and phrasings, marvelously controlled leaps, perfect pronunciation). One last point in favor of this duo's debut album: the repertoire. No obvious choices (and no Cole Porter! How rare is that?), except for Gershwin's "I've Got a Crush on You" -- but listen to how they approach it; it's well worth the inclusion. Shrimpton and Hofbauer have opted for neglected songs like the Wodehouse/Hammerstein ballad "Bill," Sam Rivers' "Beatrice" (wonderful wordless vocals here), Landesman/Dorough's "Small Day Tomorrow," and a very personal rendition of Kenny Wheeler's "For Jan," extracted from its original waltz mood and reformatted in 5/4. Kudos are due for the witty reading of the Christmas children's classic "You're a Mean One Mr. Grinch," which also features saxophonist Allan Chase and bassist Scott Barnum (they appear on three more tracks). Shrimpton slips in two originals that fit in remarkably well, especially the Porter-like "I'm in a Mood." Madman's Moon is a commanding debut. One hopes that Rebecca Shrimpton doesn't get seduced by the mainstream and start slapping glamour over her genuine talent. It would be a shame and a great loss.

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