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Trudy Kerr

Like Minds


by Ian Mann

March 09, 2009


A sophisticated album that takes a fresh look at the Ellington repertoire

The latest album from the prolific Australian born vocalist Trudy Kerr sees her collaborating with the great pianist/composer Michael Garrick in a programme comprised of classic Duke Ellington songs plus a sprinkling of Garrick originals. Essentially it is a duo recording with added support from double bassist Paul Moylan on five of the album’s thirteen tracks.

The seeds for the album were sown some five years ago when Kerr was asked to teach at Garrick’s annual Jazz Academy Summer School. This engagement revealed their mutual love for the music of Duke Ellington and led in time to the creation of this album. Garrick is an acknowledged authority on Ellington and his music, making him the perfect partner for Kerr’s Ellington project. His position as one of the UK’s leading jazz composers is reflected by the inclusion of a number of Garrick originals on the finished recording.

Many of the classic songs of the Ellington repertoire are here and it is a tribute to Kerr and Garrick that they are able to bring something fresh to such familiar material. The opening “Don’t Get Around Much Anymore” illustrates their approach perfectly. As Chris Parker points out in his perceptive liner notes the duo slow the song down from it’s usually jaunty tempo and Kerr delivers the lyrics (by Bob Russell) with the gravitas they deserve. Kerr and Garrick re-invest the song with the bittersweet sense of yearning and regret expressed in the lyrics. Garrick’s spare but lyrical piano is the perfect foil to Kerr’s rueful, conversational vocal. His use of space adds greatly to the mood of the piece.

Much of the rest of the album is in the same tone with Garrick’s piano beautifully recorded by Derek Nash at his Clown’s Pocket Studio. There is a particularly fine solo on “Prelude To A Kiss”, the first of the tracks to feature bassist Moylan.

The slowed down approach is also applied to “I’m Beginning To See The Light” but the duo retain enough of an element of playfulness to remain true to the spirit of the original. The important point is that here, as elsewhere they avoid all the clichés. 

The achingly beautiful “October Woman” is the first Garrick original. The empathy between pianist and singer is superbly demonstrated here. Garrick has a history of working with vocalists, most notably Norma Winstone, and is a superb accompanist.

“Do Nothing ‘Til You Hear From Me” is a return to the Ellington repertoire and to the playful approach complete with scat vocal and lively, percussive piano.

A sumptuous “In A Sentimental Mood” features Kerr’s velvety vocal cradled by Garrick’s piano and Moylan’s wonderfully expressive bass playing. 

Moylan sticks around for “Heaven”, adding his woody tones to Kerr’s sometimes wordless vocals and Garrick’s gently probing piano

Garrick’s piano shadows Kerr’s voice superbly on his own “Respondere Amour”, another fine example of the art of the duo.

Like “Don’t Get Around Much..” “Mood Indigo” is another tune that is sometimes played at a faster tempo thereby divesting the song of much of it’s original meaning. Kerr and Garrick’s stripped down, less is more approach brings out the desperation inherent in the words. Lyrically this the blues at it’s most raw.

Garrick’s “Song Of The Sea” is a lyrical paean to love and nature, wistfully portrayed by Kerr with sympathetic support from Garrick. The impressive Moylan also features strongly here, making use of the bow on the song’s intro.

Kerr and Garrick also bring out the bittersweet nature of the lyrics to “Sophisticated Lady” with slyly bluesy piano from Garrick and another notable contribution from Moylan.

Garrick’s final contribution as writer is “Down On Your Knees” which features Kerr scathingly chastising a straying lover. A live show stopper I would imagine.

Finally comes “Lush Life”, not technically an Ellington song as it was actually penned by Billy Strayhorn. Harmonically sophisticated and lyrically inventive it’s a wonderfully evocative and incredibly mature piece of writing. Kerr and Garrick more than do it justice, the singer encapsulates the world weary mood of the song perfectly as Garrick shadows her every move with grace and acumen.

“Like Minds” is a sophisticated album that quickly establishes a mood and gives a fresh look at the Ellington repertoire. Kerr and Garrick’s approach focuses on the words and brings out the true meaning of the lyrics. The interplay between voice and piano is excellent, Moylan’s contributions judicious and the Jazzizit production values typically high.

“Like Minds” is released on March 9th 2009 with the official launch taking place at the Pizza Express Jazz Club, Dean Street, Soho, London on March 20th.

See for details of further dates.

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