by Ian Mann
July 28, 2021
Assured vocals and intelligent, imaginative arrangements. An album that will continue to enhance Beirne’s reputation nationally, she is emerging as far more than just a good ‘regional’ jazz singer.
(BB Records / 33 Jazz)
Beverley Beirne – vocals, Sam Watts – piano, Flo Moore – bass, Ben Brown – drums, percussion,
Rob Hughes – sax & flute
Duncan Lamont – saxophone, Jason Miles – Fender Rhodes, Hammond B3, Romero Lubambo – guitar, Cyro Baptista – percussion
Beverley Beirne is a Yorkshire based jazz vocalist who has released two previous albums under her own name, 2012’s standards based “Seasons of Love” and 2018’s “Jazz Just Wants To Have Fun”. The latter is a collection featuring jazz arrangements of 70s and 80s pop songs and was particularly well received. In addition to her work as a performer she also runs the annual Ilkley Jazz Festival, alongside her husband Mark Beirne-Smith.
I first heard Beirne’s singing on the album “The Ilkley Suite”, a work commissioned for the 2018 Ilkley Jazz Festival composed by pianist Jamil Sheriff and performed by a quintet featuring Sheriff and Beirne, plus saxophonist Nadim Teimoori, bassist Garry Jackson and drummer Dave Walsh. I was impressed by “The Ilkley Suite” and by Beirne’s contribution to it and my review of the album can be viewed here;
For her latest release Beirne has returned to the standards repertoire with the album taking its title from one of the tracks, Cole Porter’s song “Dream Dancing”, written in 1941. A loose theme of dreams and dancing informs the rest of the programme, which includes two songs written by the late saxophonist, composer and songwriter Duncan Lamont (1931 – 2019). The songs were recorded when Lamont was still alive and he actually got to play on them.
“Dream Dancer” features a core quintet of Beirne, pianist Sam Watts, bassist Flo Moore, drummer Ben Brown and saxophonist / flautist Rob Hughes, a classy line up of London based musicians. The majority of the arrangements are by Beirne and Watts with album producer Jason Miles providing string arrangements for two of the tracks, in addition to playing electric keyboards on two others.
Dan Ouellett’s liner notes offer insights into Beirne’s musical history and into the specific influences and inspirations behind the songs on the album.
We learn that Beirne was first introduced to jazz via her father’s record collection, which included albums by Ella Fitzgerald, Sarah Vaughan and Mel Torme. More recent influences include singers Tierney Sutton, Nnenna Freelon, Kurt Elling, Aubrey Logan, Ian Shaw and Liane Carroll.
The involvement of the American producer Jason Miles makes for an interesting story. Mark Beirne-Smith had befriended Miles on Facebook and asked if he knew of a suitable UK producer to work on Beverley’s new album. Miles asked to hear some of her music, liked what he heard, and decided to come over to the UK and produce the album himself. This was a major coup and Miles makes a substantial contribution to the success of the recording in his combined roles of producer, musician and arranger.
The performances commence with an upbeat, swinging arrangement of Irving Berlin’s “Let’s Face The Music and Dance” with Beirne’s smoky, sultry alto voice accompanied by Watts’ lithe pianism, Moore’s propulsive bass lines and the bustle of Brown’s brushed drums. Hughes adds a fluent tenor sax solo, urged on by the energetic rhythm section. Of the song itself the singer remarks, “I like it’s dichotomy, everything is quite jolly, but there’s a dark element that possibly we’ll all be on the streets soon”.
The Victor Young / John Eliott song “Weaver of Dreams” is taken at a slower pace, less frenetic but still swinging, with Beirne praising the contribution of bassist Flo Moore. Beirne herself gives a relaxed reading of the song, while Moore is the featured instrumental soloist, fluent and melodic, but always with an underlying sense of swing.
Beirne has featured as part of fellow vocalist Esther Bennett’s Duncan Lamont Songbook project, hence the inclusion of the two Lamont songs on this album.
“Now We’re Just Friends”, written as recently as 2003, is given an intimate interpretation, with a sensitive vocal performance from Beirne, and delicately nuanced instrumental contributions from Watts, Moore and Brown. Lamont appears on his favoured tenor sax on what must have been one of his last recording sessions. His tone is fragile, but still fluent, a masterclass in jazz ballad playing.
Perhaps the most surprising item on the album is a seductive jazz / samba arrangement of the David Bowie song “Let’s Dance”, which sees the core line up augmented by Miles on Fender Rhodes and with Hughes the featured instrumental soloist on tenor. Recorded only a couple of weeks before Bowie’s death the piece has effectively become a memorial tribute.
The Billy Strayhorn / John Latouche tune “Daydream”, a song that Beirne first learnt from one of her teachers, is attractively interpreted as a jazz waltz with the leader’s elegant vocal complemented by a sparkling piano solo from Watts.
Introduced by Brown on conga drums “Temptation”, a hit for Bing Crosby in 1933, features Beirne’s voice at its most sensual in an intriguing interpretation that includes a further piano solo from Watts, a low key string arrangement from Miles and the beguiling sound of Hughes, the other featured instrumental soloist, on flute.
“Fascinating Rhythm” is teamed with “Thou Swell” and commences with a double bass / vocal duet, before the rest of the band join in to increase the pace. The instrumentation includes Miles on Hammond B3, but the first solo comes from Watts at the piano. Beirne enjoys a series of scat exchanges, trading ideas with Hughes’ sax.
“Bill” is a Jerome Kern / Oscar Hammerstein song from the 1927 musical “Showboat”. This “ode to the ordinary guy” features a lyrical contribution from PG Wodehouse and an attractive arrangement featuring just voice, piano and flute.
Duncan Lamont was a huge fan of Brazilian music and his love of the country and its music is expressed in the song “Old Brazil”, the lyrics name-checking several famous locations in Rio De Janeiro. The arrangement features Lamont himself on saxophone and the Brazilian musicians Romero Lubambo and Cyro Baptista on guitar and percussion respectively, all this wrapped up in a Miles string arrangement.
Beirne describes the Hoagy Carmichael song “Winter Moon” as “a darker dream” and her reading of it here is possessed of a sombre beauty, with her deep alto vocals accompanied by a tastefully economical arrangement for piano, bass and drums, with Hughes’ blues tinged saxophone later added for the main instrumental solo, soaring gracefully above the rhythm, and then combining effectively with Beirne’s voice. It’s a pretty stunning interpretation and a definite album highlight.
“Dream Dancing” commences with the sounds of just piano and voice before adding bass and drums. Unfortunately an all too visible scratch on my review CD prevents me from describing the performance in full. This was unfortunate as I was just getting into it when the unwelcome intrusion occurred, with Hughes’ sax yet to enter the proceedings.
The album closes with Michel Legrand’s “Pieces Of Dreams”, an intimate duet for Beirne’s voice and Watts’ piano. The arrangement includes an extended passage of solo piano and praise is due to Watts for his contribution throughout the album as both pianist and arranger. His piano is the instrumental heart of the music throughout, although his soloing opportunities remain fairly limited.
Emerging out of the same sessions that produced “Jazz Just Wants To Have Fun” this is another classy offering from Beverley Beirne. Her well enunciated vocals successfully embrace a variety of moods and styles and she is well served by an excellent core group, with the guest musicians also making significant contributions.
The arrangements by Beirne and Watts are intelligent, imaginative and consistently interesting, while Miles does an excellent job in the producer’s chair. Ultimately, of course, the triumph is Beirne’s, who gives an assured vocal performance throughout.
This is an album that will continue to enhance Beirne’s reputation nationally, she is emerging as far more than just a good ‘regional’ jazz singer, as the presence of Miles, Lamont and an exceptional London based band suggests.
“Dream Dancer” is available at;
From Jason Miles via Facebook;
Once upon a time there were guys out there that actually knew how to write a record review. I think Beverley stumbled upon one of them with this one. Makes you yearn for the days when these reviews really had depth and insight. I think this review can serve as a template to those who should know what a proper review of an album should be..Although I am not familiar with him and his writings I’ve now become a fan of Ian Mann..Congratulations to Beverley…this one is a keeper!
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