Barbara Paris

Swingballadsblues&bossanova

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In early 2004, Barbara Paris released this 14-song retrospective on her Perea label. Swingballadsblues&bossanova draws on five different sessions from a seven-year period, and these '90s and early-2000s recordings underscore the subtle nature of her singing. No one will accuse Paris of being a forceful, aggressive belter; subtlety is one of her strong points, and she uses it effectively on familiar standards that range from "Star Eyes" to Luiz Bonfá's "The Gentle Rain" and Antonio Carlos Jobim's "Corcovado." Like Carol Sloane, Libby York, Claire Martin, and Dominique Eade, Paris isn't the sort of vocalist who needs to shout and scream to get her points across -- which isn't to say there is anything wrong with a more hard-driving style of jazz singing. The loud-and-proud approach has often worked marvelously well for Dee Dee Bridgewater and Ernestine Anderson, but that isn't what Paris is about; this CD is a tasteful example of restraint and understatement. Unfortunately, the warhorse factor is much too strong on Swingballadsblues&bossanova. "April in Paris," "Everything Happens to Me," "Like Someone in Love," and "Exactly Like You" are the sort of overdone standards that have been beaten to death over the years -- they're great songs, but after being recorded countless times, how many more versions need to be heard? Paris would do well to pay less attention to warhorses and more attention to great songs that haven't been recorded so many times. From Jobim to Duke Ellington to Stephen Sondheim, the truly prolific composers wrote a lot of overlooked gems that didn't become standards -- and many of them would work well for Paris if she would be less conservative in her choice of material. That said, Paris has a lot going for her, and all things considered, Swingballadsblues&bossanova paints an attractive (if imperfect) picture of the Colorado-based jazz vocalist.

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