Tackling the Great American Songbook is a rite of passage for jazz vocalists regardless of age and experience. There is little doubt that the songs work, but there is a tendency for things to get somewhat samey. If I had a nickel for every recording from a modern jazz singer that takes on the works within, well…
Jane Scheckter’s Easy to Remember is yet another jazz vocal album that takes pages out of the Great American Songbook. The good news is that she can sing. She wields her experience proudly, but still vocalizes with the wonder and energy of someone discovering these pieces for the first time.
It also helps that the supporting players are first-rate. Pianist/arranger Tedd Firth, bassist Jay Leonhart and drummer Peter Grant comprise the main trio, while guests like saxophonist Harry Allen and violinist Aaron Weinstein show up on various cuts.
Easy to Remember, Scheckter’s fourth album, builds on her big tones and crystal-clear enunciation to construct some swinging renditions. She has command of the spotlight, that’s for sure, and it’s not hard to imagine her belting these numbers out with a smile.
The album opens with a rarity from Irving Berlin, “The Best Thing for You.” The track is only two-and-a-half minutes, but Scheckter commands it confidently. A couple of horns join the party and guitarist Bucky Pizzarelli adds subtle lines to meld the track together agreeably.
The title track, a Rodgers and Hart number, has a lovely Firth arrangement at its foundation. Things are beautiful and tantalizing, with Scheckter’s tones as calm and rich as ever.
“Where or When,” another Rodgers and Hart classic, opens with a seldom heard verse and warm touches of piano. Gil Chimes’ contemplative harmonica is an elegant touch, fitting snugly within the affectionate but ever-so-slightly melancholy arrangement. It is to Scheckter’s credit as a knowledgeable singer that she doesn’t overdo it.
Easy to Remember may not reinvent the wheel, but it is a recording of polish and sophistication. Scheckter’s vocals are pleasant, smooth and clean. Her phrasing and pulse is on-point and she packs plenty of charm, nudging the familiar material and generally benign arrangements beyond the norm.