Veteran jazz singer Wanda Stafford has shared the stage with the likes of the great guitarist Wes Montgomery, pianist and San Francisco icon Al Plank, alto saxophonist and flautist James Spaulding, Freddie Hubbard and legendary bassist Leroy Vinegar among others. Stafford, like Vinegar, grew up in Indianapolis, Indiana and like pianist Plank; Stafford has become a fixture in the San Francisco Bay Area. Possessing hushed dreamy vocals, Stafford’s Something Cool is a breeze of cool jazz featuring delightful vocals and excellent instrumental accompaniment. Presenting a selection of twelve primarily relaxing laid-back songs, Stafford and crew lay down one entertaining vocal album that’s truly a pleasure to hear.
Like many vocal projects, the album contains a good share of music from The Great American Songbook reprising standards penned by legendary composers like Cole Porter, George Gershwin, Rogers and Hart, Frank Loesser and Johnny Mercer among others. Unlike many vocal releases, this one supports the singer with terrific instrumentals adding “something cool” to the music. Pianist Grant Levin is simply marvelous here along with saxophone great Noel Jewkes, first-call bassist Chris Amberger, young drumming sensation Lorca Hart and trumpet wonder Bob Switzer—who appears here as special guest—round out a world-class quintet.
The music begins with a haunting rendition of Porter’s “All of You” as Stafford introduces the lyrics in a humbling fashion then turns it over to the trumpeter, pianist and the bassist for their solo moments before reclaiming the song. Turning warm and cushy, the vocalist dishes out a tender version of the beautiful ballad “Say It, Over and Over Again” before perking up on the lively “Get Out Of Town,” which by the way, features some of the best instrumentals of the session. Staying on the lively up beat side, the singer is wonderful on the classic “Fools Rush In” enjoying some nice muted horn play from Switzer and dynamite saxophone lines from Jewkes.
The Billy Barnes title track, “Something Cool” is another laid-back piece of music and Stafford—who really seems comfortable with these soft charts—sings it with emotive spirit sharing the tenderness with bassist Amberger who delivers warm bass lines. Victor Young’s immortal “Street of Dreams” is one of the swinging songs of the set and Stafford sets it up perfectly turning it over to Jewkes’s soprano voice, the pianist and a nice drum rumble from Hart at the end. Another swinger of a tune has to be Gershwin’s iconic “The Man I Love” offering incredible solos throughout. No question about this album, Something Cool contains the successful ingredients of wonderful instrumentals, a great selection of music and Wanda Stafford’s special dynamic vocals—all combining to make this disc a must for those who favor love jazz vocals.
Year: 2011 Label: Self-Produced Artist Web: www.wandastafford.com