The Moonlight Sessions, Volumes 1 and 2
Jazz vocalist Lyn Stanley has the kind of self-made story that makes us admire her even before we hear her sultry, refined, signature delivery. Six years ago, she was a retired marketing executive wondering if she had enough musical talent for her church choir. Now, into her third career, and with these two, her fourth and fifth recordings, she is turning the heads of audiophile experts, noted producers, and top shelf musicians. To say that Stanley has determination is a vast understatement. She rose to top executive levels in marketing, is a cancer survivor, and became a world class ballroom dancing champion just five years after sustaining serious head and leg injuries in an automobile accident.
So, how did her music career begin? In 2010 Stanley retired from both marketing and dancing. After attending church one day, her mother suggested she join the choir. Not long after that, as fate would have it, Stanley attended a fund-raising event where noted pianist Paul Smith just floored her. She later learned that Smith was Ella Fitzgerald’s longtime conductor and arranger, and had backed such stars as Bing Crosby, Mel Torme, Sarah Vaughan, and Bennie Goodman, to name a few. She approached Smith after the event, confiding to him about her church ambitions. Next, she scheduled a vocal coaching lesson with Smith’s wife, Annette Warren, that eventually led to intensive lessons four days a week. In February 2013, Smith, who is famously selective, invited Stanley to sit in on seven songs with his band. She taped the sessions and was later selected among twenty-seven finalists who trained with top notch professionals at Yale University. Smith accompanied Stanley at the culmination of the program. Then she began to make records,without a record deal, manager, or benefactor. After these self-financed projects (Lost in Romance, Potions, Interludes) she has evolved to the point where on Moonlight Sessions she produces and masters too. Stanley is the epitome of “no retreat no surrender.”
She entered one of the most competitive markets there is in music, today’s female vocalist market. Inevitably, she will be compared to Diana Krall, especially since she is mining much of the same turf, the Great American Songbook. Yet, Stanley’s gone from an unknown to now selling over 34,000 albums worldwide (not including these two) since her first release. Despite the rampant ageism in the entertainment industry, Stanley, now into her sixties, continues to make her mark.
Okay, so what about these two albums? With her distinctive alto voice and her husky, sultry timbre and remarkable phrasing, Stanley shows terrific chemistry with her band of top shelf West Coast jazz musicians. Among them: pianists Mike Garson, Christian Jacob and Tamir Hendelman; bassist Chuck Berghofer; drummers Ray Brinker, Bernie Dresel and Joe LaBarbara; percussionist Luis Conte; guitarist John Chiodini; trumpeter Chuck Findley; saxophonist Rickey Woodard; trombonist Bob McChesney; and harmonica wizard Hendrik Meurkens.
Not only does Stanley do more than justice to the classic familiar Songbook ballads on Volume One; she does an inventive version of Willie Nelson’s “Crazy,” and mashes up jazz and classical on her reading of Antonio Carlos Jobim’s “How Insensitive.” She even takes a bluesy approach to “Why Don’t You Do Right,” reminiscent somewhat of Peggy Lee’s version of “Fever.”
Volume Two was done largely due to the overwhelming response from critics, fans, and audiophiles for Volume One. It has a similar mix of Songbook classics, updating to popular songs from the mid -‘70s such as “At Seventeen” and “The Summer Knows” (from the film Summer of ’42). Her bluesy takes on “Since I Fell for You,” “How Deep Is the Ocean,” and Helen Humes/Count Basie’s “You’ve Changed” are especially engaging. And, she delivers an especially seductive rendition of “Over the Rainbow,” accompanied by piano and strings.
This is sophisticated, endearing stuff. If you’re thinking, “why do I need to hear tunes I’ve heard thousands of times from multiple singers?” stop right there. First, these are all terrific songs. That’s why many of them are included in the The Great American Songbook. Secondly, every bit of this is executed flawlessly, from Stanley’s vocals to the musicianship and production values. Lyn Stanley has proven that’s she’s a winner as a musician and in the endeavors she took on prior to becoming a notable international recording artist.
- Jim Hynes
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