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Clare Foster

The Music and I

by Ian Mann

July 03, 2006


A flawed but nonetheless high-class vocal album.

Singer Clare Foster delivers an interesting album comprised of a varied mixture of standards and vocalese treatments of modern jazz classics where Foster has added lyrics to the original instrumental tunes. The title track is the only piece where Foster provides the music as well as the words.

Foster’s singing has a true jazz sensibility and she is helped greatly by a stellar band consisting of rising piano star Andrew McCormack, rock steady bassist Alec Dankworth and the wonderful Winston Clifford on drums. I’ve seen Clifford three times this year already - with Larry Bartley at Cheltenham Jazz Festival, Tony Kofi at a Cheltenham Jazz Society gig and also with Gilad Atzmon at Lichfield Jazz, Real Ale and Blues Festival. He’s a great player and never fails to impress.

This core quartet combine superbly as a unit and the music is further enhanced by the presence of Shanti Paul Jayasinha who provides trumpet and flugelhorn on six of the twelve tracks. Saxophonist Jean Toussaint appears on three songs combining with Jayasinha on two of these.

The album opens with two classy but fairly regulation renditions of standards in the form of “East Of The Sun” and “Love Is A Many Splendored Thing”. However, the third track “All The Things You Are” begins conventionally enough before the second half of the song is transformed by the addition of Foster’s own lyrics delivered in a style taking in elements of scat and even rap. It shouldn’t work but it does thanks to the singer’s technical expertise and the superb support of the instrumentalists.

Foster applies a similar approach to Freddie Hubbard’s “Soul Search” and she also tackles “Black Narcissus” by Joe Henderson , Clifford Brown’s “Sandu"and Cedar Walton’s “Ugetsu”. Foster’s lyrics can be sentimental, sanctimonious and banal but she gets away with it through sheer vocal ability and the quality of the original tunes plus the sparkling playing of her band mates.

The other standards are given straight but sophisticated deliveries, “But Beautiful” being a particular highlight. Foster’s original title tune is pleasant enough but is let down by the faults in the lyrics outlined above.

This is a flawed but nonetheless high-class vocal album. The technical excellence and interplay of the singer and musicians helps to overcome the flaws of some of the lyrical content. Praise is due though for attempting something original and different.

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