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4 1/2* Vocal Stylist
M. Allen Greenbaum | California | 04/12/2003
(4 out of 5 stars)
"They might be called saloon singers or vocal stylists, but there is a certain kind of singer who attains fame through unique phrasing, intonation, and enunciation. Generally their forte is their style, not their voices per se. This personal style, when done right, highlights a song's emotional impact. Whitfield, though she has a great voice, is a casual singer and a S.F. Bay Area favorite whose distinctive interpretations usually enhance this collection of standards.The opener, "Nice Work if You Can Get It," is suitably wistful with some nice stride piano backing by Mike Greensill, with Gene Bertoncini on guitar (he's on 3 tracks only) and the talented bassist Michael Moore. It's a delightfully romantic piece that, like Whitfield's best work, brings new feeling to a standard. She also excels on somewhat bitter ballads like "I'm Gonna Laugh You Right Out of My Life" and "Where's That Rainbow." However, her phrasing and other vocal choices don't always work quite work-perhaps that the chance a stylist takes. For all the soaring beauty of "How Deep is the Ocean," it's just too drawn out--Whitfield really lingers on those long vowels. Another example: On the otherwise superb, "A Kiss to Build A Dream On," Whitfield slurs the "sh" into a `z' sound that's a little affected. The verse to "This Can't Be Love" is spoiled by an annoying start and stop piano riff by Greensill, and the Broadway-like vocal is somewhat cloying.Perhaps the best song, "Bewitched, Bothered, and Bedazzled" has a simple purity that highlights Whitfield's enormous sensitivity to her material. She sings it with the complex emotions of a young lover, confused, elated, awestruck. There's also a beautifully played, almost spirally progression on guitar that similarly matches the lyrics to perfection. Whitfield imbues the old-fashioned sentimentality of "I'm Confessin' That I Love You," with such feeling that it sounds fresh and vibrant. This is a great selection of songs, from the fun take on "Errand (Girl) for Rhythm" (the Nat Cole song which features swinging piano solo and bass) to the fine, Latin-tinged "Concentrate on You" with softly intense vocals and understated backing. Whitfield's casual, intimate style works because of the intelligence and empathy that she brings to each song. Listening to this excellent album, one gets the feeling she treasures each one."