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May 30, 2006

Review - Janis Siegel

The Times (UK):

The name may not be instantly familiar, but if you picture the smaller, sassier member of Manhattan Transfer, you’ll certainly know who she is. Janis Siegel’s colleagues haven’t always attracted the respect they deserve, yet an album such as Spirit of St Louis, their homage to Louis Armstrong, was steeped in true jazz colours.

Siegel has long pursued a parallel solo career, and her latest release, A Thousand Beautiful Things, shows that she has not lost her taste for new challenges. Breaking away from the traditional repertoire, she has gone in search of modern pop numbers that can stand up to brisk treatment from a Latin-style rhythm section. While it may not be quite as audacious as Lea DeLaria’s clever rock-chick performance on the CD Double Standards, Siegel finds new depths in some unexpected places, from Annie Lennox’s title tune to Björk’s Hidden Place.

The addition of Colombian harp lends extra colour to the studio versions. In Knightsbridge, the settings were starker, the pianist Edsel Gomez leading a hard-driving trio fuelled by the volcanic drumming of Steve Hass. There were moments when Siegel, whose feathery inflexions hovered somewhere between the Village Vanguard and the Algonquin, was in danger of being swept away by the waves of energy.

Did You See the Moon Tonight? was the cue for some artful introspection. If I Can’t Help It is less than vintage Stevie Wonder (the song was actually recorded by Michael Jackson), Siegel gave it a touch of sophistication. Dipping into Sondheim’s Company was a less inspired decision: Siegel isn’t the first singer to be seduced by those strained rhymes.

She seemed much more comfortable on Lorraine Feather’s brassy homage to her native Brooklyn; the voice grew darker and bluesier and much less self-conscious. There was just as much vim to Too Darn Hot — the evergreen still has life in it yet.

Posted by acapnews at May 30, 2006 10:36 PM