Terry Blaine

Too Hot for Words

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With this album of 16 "blasts from the past," Terry Blaine solidifies her position as one of the leading contemporary practitioners of the traditional/swing vocal style. The subtitle for this album is "Great Ladies of Swing," a tribute to those song birds of the past who enthralled the public and, in doing so, set the standards for singers of this musical genre who were to follow. The technique Terry Blaine and Mark Shane use in presenting this tribute is as fascinating as the tribute itself. On most of the cuts, Blaine refines a technique she used in her earlier album, Whose Honey Are You?, by over-dubbing her voice to create background singers. Here she manages to sound as if she is accompanied by the Boswell Sisters, giving each of them a separate and distinct voice. The result is some very interesting vocal combinations, which is Blaine and Shane's objective. On "Looking at You," Cole Porter's under-recorded gem, it's as if Lee Wiley has the Boswell Sisters backing her. An unlikely combination is Mae West backed by these harmonious siblings on "I'm No Angel." On "My Very Good Friend the Milkman," made famous by the inimitable Fats Waller, Shane does Waller's piano while Blaine and her "background singers" do a jivy version of this perky tune. While most of the cuts are indeed "hot," there are some slowly turned-out ballads. Alan Vache's clarinet noodles behind Blaine's poignant delivery of "You Go to My Head" before he takes a patented soft, Benny Goodman-like solo. Blaine's interpretation and style on this tune recalls Bea Wain's with the Larry Clinton Orchestra. Another slow-tempo tune, "It's Easy to Remember," showcases Russell George's arco bass. Many other singers of the past are recalled on this entertaining album, among them Mildred Bailey, Peggy Lee, Ethel Waters, and, of course Ella Fitzgerald on the kick-off song "A-Tisket A-Tasket." Blaine does not imitate the voices of these singers of the past; rather, she sings in a similar style. She has garnered an extraordinary and likeminded set of musicians to work with her on this album. The Texas tailgate trombone of Joel Helleny and Ed Polcer's cornet go a long way in recreating the swing aura of the 1920s-1940s. Mark Shane's piano, however, is the glue which holds the set together. He sets exactly the right mood and pace, promoting Blaine's delivery and phrasing. That these two are musical soulmates is apparent.

Too Hot for Words serves as a reminder of how enduring the works of the great stylists of the past (and some from the relatively recent past) are, and of the very rich vocal legacy they left behind. In the hands of talented professionals, the reminder is a very entertaining one indeed.

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