A new collection of standards from Cole Porter to Paul Simon, from the ever popular Ms...
Kathryn Shackleton 2003
Humphrey Lyttleton's favourite vocalist is renowned for her devotion to the Great American Songbook and for her wonderful way with a ballad. For her new album 'The Boy Next Door', the tempo is still relaxed and the delivery languid, but there are some new kids on the block. Stacey's still clutching the Songbook in one hand, but in the other she's brandishing music associated with the likes of Chet Baker, Paul Simon and James Taylor.
Stacey draws consonants out like bubblegum in 'The Best is Yet to Come', her voice smooth but with that serrated edge that keeps you entranced, and David Newton contributes a tiny but perfectly-conceived piano solo on this and on the title track. Both are simple but beautiful vehicles for Stacey's Christmas-bauble vocals and impeccable timing.
'Makin' Whoopee' sees Stacey and the band getting low down and bluesy. Imagine Carrie from 'Sex and the City' as a jazz singer, and that's Stacey on 'Makin' Whoopee'. She's completely in control, with a demure, half-hidden sexiness that shines through in her diction and delivery. Stacey's musicians happily succumb to her lead - the rhythm section hangs back behind the beat and Stacey's husband Jim Tomlinson provides gentle support on the sax (but only when the lady permits it). 'Ooh-Shoo-Be-Doo-Bee' is infused with the same pert sexiness, but here it becomes mock theatrical as David, Jim and recording engineer Curtis Schwartz add tongue-in-cheek backing vocals and tons of swing behind Stacey's luscious phrasing.
Keeping the band focused on accompaniment and not on solos works to give the tightly-structured performances that we've come to expect. Nothing can ruffle her cool, in-control exterior. You can almost hear her relaxed smile in 'Tis Autumn' and in 'I Get Along Without You Very Well' she's jettisoned Chet Baker's air of mild despair and adopted stoical acceptance instead.
It's questionable whether Stacey adds anything to 'You've Got a Friend' - where even her vibrato is reminiscent of Carole King's - or to "Bookends" by Paul Simon. Both are covers, not reworks. Burt Bacharach's 'What the World Needs Now', though, demands playing and replaying. David Newton's piano sits well behind the lyric, allowing it freedom and movement, and Stacey's breathy, perfectly-timed vocals give David the space to stretch his fingers out just a little.
At 16 tracks you certainly get your money's worth from this album, and there are no interruptions from long or inaccessible instrumental solos. If that's how you like your jazz, you'll love The Boy Next Door. Ms Kent's stepping out beyond the Great American songbook and there's no stopping her now. Go, Stacey!