Swedish singer tackles songs made legendary by Dionne Warwick
Martin Longley 2004
When covering Dionne Warwick, it's hard to avoid the mellow middle-of-the-road. Swedish singer Rigmor Gustafsson grew up with these songs, and her intent is undoubtedly sincere, but her second album for ACT could easily have avoided such a specific conceptual thrust.
Gustafsson is joined by the trio of Berlin-born Jacky Terrasson, whom she toured with the year before this project came together. The pianist has a long-term Blue Note contract, and is joined by Sean Smith (bass) and Eric Harland (drums).
Most of the songs are from the pens of Burt Bacharach and Hal David, although Rigmor is also interested in Warwick's later material. She floats spaciously, enunciating precisely, carefully swilling the words around her mouth. The lines are sweetly sung, with Gustafsson's voice very pronounced in the mix. This makes Terrasson's trio seem particularly shy, serving as a structural support, taking few solos and adhering to a strict structure. Producer Nils Landgren has already revealed questionable taste on his own vocal projects, but his garrulous trombone playing is an asset.
Many of these songs are painfully familiar, so finding new twists can be problematic. "Close To You", "Walk On By", "What The World Needs Now" and "Alfie" are too straight, despite their uncertain conversion to the jazz realm. Their form is so established that there is little room for improvisation, and too strong a temptation to make a literal interpretation.
Some of the best numbers are less familiar, hailing from the period when funk made its mark. On "Move Me No Mountain", Terrasson plays Fender Rhodes and Gustafsson loosens up her delivery, sounding more herself. Landgren adds a nimble, glowing trombone solo, and on "Much Too Much", Terrasson jabs out a cyclic figure, percussively attacking his keys. Landgren adds an effects-smudged solo. Then, "Odds An Ends" risks all with ensemble whistling and finger-clicks, but is quite profound when set beside the bland cheese of "So Amazing", with its smarmy backing vocal replies to each of Gustafsson's breathy lines.