Various Artists

Once in a Blue Moon: The Love Songs of Ellen Vanderslice

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Ellen Vanderslice is one of those very lucky people who seems to have managed to find enough space in her life to engage in two activities she really likes. By day, Vanderslice is an architect and urban designer in Portland, OR, and an internationally known, outspoken pedestrian rights activist. By night, she writes songs and performs as an occasional vocalist in Portland's jazz clubs. Wearing her second hat, Vanderslice has managed to garner some of the most prominent and talented members of Portland's large and active jazz society to join on an album of her tunes. The overall results are quite good. Vanderslice's compositions cover a wide spectrum of genres. Brazilian dominates "One Minute More," while "If I Never See You Again" combines R&B with country. The doleful sax of Lee Wuthenow (of the jazz group Tall Jazz) is out of the R&B bag, while Marilyn Keller's vocal is definitely from Nashville -- and the marriage works. "Reflection in Blue" is a straight-ahead romantic ballad. On the bouncy, bluesy "All I Ever Wanted," Wuthenow's tenor has another successful collaboration, this time with vocalist Amandah Jantzen. Outstanding vocalist Rebecca Kilgore is on "Moonshadow Dance," ably aided and abetted by Dan Faehnle's guitar and Randy Porter's piano. This performance is an album highlight. While Vanderslice's music passes muster, the lyrics are not very memorable. Lines like "sometimes I dream you hold me tight, just like you used to do" and "you're gone again and this time this is really the end/No use to pretend that everything's fine...but once in a blue moon, drop me a line" are the rule rather than the exception. There's the feeling that you've heard these lines many times. Recognizing that writing lyrics is no easy thing, a little more originality and imagination by Vanderslice and her co-lyricists would have enriched the proceedings considerably. Notwithstanding that the words lack novelty, the music is satisfying and the performances are worth the price of admission.

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