[JPL] A Cosmopolitan Voice Wedded to a Smoky Sax

r durfee rdurfee2003 at yahoo.com
Mon Dec 3 18:45:47 EST 2007

November 30, 2007
Music Review | Stacey Kent
A Cosmopolitan Voice Wedded to a Smoky Sax 
A peripatetic jet-set couple shuttling between London
and Paris with extended visits to Rio de Janiero and
Tokyo: that is the glamorous picture that the pop-jazz
singer Stacey Kent and her husband, the saxophonist
Jim Tomlinson, conjured on Wednesday evening at

Their musical chemistry might be described as a smoky
tea (Mr. Tomlinson’s seductive Getz-style saxophone)
flavored with lemon zest (Ms. Kent’s bright,
sharp-edged voice with slippery edges). When the two
are in close communication on the stage, it can be
very heady. 

Their upscale cosmopolitan sensibility was distilled
on Wednesday evening by “Samba Saravah,” a Brazilian
song with French lyrics from “A Man and a Woman,” the
1966 movie of misty-eyed mush that Ms. Kent remembered
fondly from the stage. It is included on her new
album, “Breakfast on the Morning Tram” (Blue Note),
several of whose songs describe international travel
and romantic turmoil in various shades of bossa nova.
With two songs by Serge Gainsbourg, one of which (“Ces
Petits Rien”) Ms. Kent performed, it is far and away
the most European album by Ms. Kent, who is based in
London and whose earlier albums combine American
popular standards and bossa nova. 

The heart of the record consists of four promising
collaborations between Mr. Tomlinson (music) and the
novelist Kazuo Ishiguro (lyrics), which depict couples
imagining travel, together and apart, on the road or
at home. Ms. Kent performed all four on Wednesday with
a group that included, in addition to her husband, Art
Hirahara on piano, Dave Chamberlain (excellent) on
double bass and Matt Skelton on drums. 

One of their best collaborations is “So Romantic,”
whose wistful narrator comments on a lover’s fondness
for movies like “Casablanca,” in which “the
complicated world or the call of adventure/Forces true
lovers apart,” then observes, “You always considered
it so romantic/But I just considered it sad.” 

The least ornate of pop-jazz singers, Ms. Kent pounces
on lyrics with a no-nonsense directness. Emotions are
muted but not stifled. High drama is absent. Her
approach easily shades from jazz into soft rock. On
Wednesday, her precise reading of Stevie Nicks’s
“Landslide” removed the swirling scarves from around a
song that emerged as the shrewd self-assessment of
rock ’n’ roll vagabond gazing steadily into the

Stacey Kent continues through Sunday at Birdland, 315
West 44th Street, Clinton; (212) 581-3080,


Roy Durfee
P.O. Box 40219
Albuquerque, New Mexico 87196-0219
rdurfee2003 at yahoo.com

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