Friday, July 29, 2005


In the article in Opera News about Renée Fleming's jazz album, Haunted Heart, were references to Jane Monheit and Jamie Cullum. So I bought all three. As BC has already pointed out, I am far from being a jazz authority. I like Ella. I like it to swing. (More of this thread ...)

Jane Monheit definitely swings. She even says that her performances owe to Ella Fitzgerald. She scats a lot. I'm trained. I can spell it right now. She is singing classic songs from thirties movies in Taking a Chance on Love, and for my ears, my admittedly old-fashioned ears it's pretty hot. Her style is pretty white, but we won't hold it against her. She's sexier than Doris Day, but very natural. You definitely feel that this is her real voice. There's a bit of a southern accent. This is very fun. All you old fogies should definitely try it. And some of you younger ones, too.

Her "Over the Rainbow" is dreamy and full of longing.

Renée's album, Haunted Heart, does not swing. Would I ever choose to listen to this lounge lizard music? Can you successfully get your brain to forget that it's Renée Fleming? And where did that throaty sound come from?

Renée has the chops for this kind of music. She is all the way into this style, understands it completely and has the confidence to get free with it. She doesn't scat much. My complaints are usually focused on the fact that American singers can only get free with American music. I am looking for freedom of expression in classical music, too. The main thing you learn from listening to crossover recordings is how much is missing in their classical work.

Then we got to Mahler's "Liebst du um Schoenheit", a song that lies very deep in my heart. Why do I have to be in a crossover album to hear it done with all this emotion? Dammit! This is the song exactly as it should be sung, a glorious poem, gloriously set, gloriously sung.

The selection of songs is odd. There's something from Wozzeck, for god's sake. Even with lounge lizard music, I think I might have liked more consistency of style.

Jamie Cullum is a guy. The name doesn't give it away and neither does the picture on the album cover. He's cool.


Anonymous said...

Renée is a mess on this album. I have a tongue in cheek revire here:
You'll see I agree.
Slvia McNair has two great standards. Get to it!

Anonymous said...

I haven't heard the whole album - just excerpts during the NPR story. From what I heard, I completely agree with your previous comments about how the opera voice strains to go too low on this type singing. Just sounds unnatural and forced. KC

Dr.B said...

Listening to this again, I find I love Monheit and don't see what I liked about Fleming's "Liebst du um Schoenheit."