It has become conventional wisdom to dismiss an album of classic standards/traditional pop as nothing more than a rehash of worn-out stuff. Not so. What gets wearing is the unimaginative arrangements and interpretations of these gems from the Great American Songbook by performers who are too lazy or who lack the requisite talent to place their personal imprimatur on this elegant music. Conversely, when placed in the hands of a singer who respects this music for what it is and performs it accordingly, you end up with an album worth paying money for. Such is the case with Hinda Hoffman's Moon and Sand. Her second album as a leader (the first You Are There was released in October 1998), she is joined by Dennis Luxion and Ron Perrillo, who share piano duties, and the rhythm of Dennis Carroll and George Fludas. Hoffman is a staple on the Chicago jazz scene, having performed at many of the Windy City's important jazz venues, and knows her way around a song. She has the required technical tools: good diction, natural phrasing, squarely on-key intonation, etc. But what sets her apart is the relaxed manner in which she delivers the material, no matter the tempo, from upbeat to ballad. She reminds one of Doris Day; listen to her up-tempo "Day by Day," a tune associated with Day but not quite as cute here. But she has Day's way with the lyrics, making them believable and personal. "I Got It Bad (and That Ain't Good)" is a prime example of her calm, comfortable phrasing. This track also features some bluesy piano soloing by Luxion. The mandatory duet with bass comes with on an unusually sweet "Gee Baby, Ain't I Good to You," which Hoffman and Carroll bring off very nicely. A minor complaint is that, on the cuts where Perrillo is doing the piano honors, he tends to get a bit intrusive. But that's a matter of taste, based on a belief that an accompanist should be seen and barely heard. This album is recommended.
Moon and Sand Review
by Dave Nathan