The Rest of Your Life
As an avid jazz fan, I was delighted to review Debbie Cunningham’s album of standards. I was even more delighted when I received the CD in the mail and found that Cunningham is from my native Tennessee. A blurb on the back of the jewel case read that it was a “great CD to just kick back with a glass of wine and relax,” so I prepared accordingly. The verdict? It was, indeed, quite an enjoyable experience.
The professional, smooth sound of the trio first caught my attention. Pianist Barry Sames, percussionist Wilby Fletcher, and bassists Lee Smith and Mike Boone have created solid ensemble with guest instrumentalists on various tracks, and with Cunningham. A mellow, light touch from the trio set an appropriate lounge mood. John Swana’s muted trumpet solo on “My Funny Valentine” is spot on and probably my favorite interlude on the album.
Cunningham’s voice is polished; hers is a higher voice than one often hears, but she still delivers the smoothness one expects. I only have two comments to make on Cunningham’s delivery; that on lower passages, she seemed a little more hesitant and projects a tone that is not as rich; and there was a lack of manipulation of the melody. This is a mellower album, yes, but it would have been nice to hear a bit more of an Ella-inspired tonal play.
In “Our Love Is Here To Stay,” she does employ various vocal qualities, namely a sampling of scat, extended straight tone, and a playful staccato, which was a nice juxtaposition to the more slow pieces on the album. Her rendition of “The Rest of Your Life” was surprisingly introspective and dark, a departure from saucier, bossa nova renditions I’ve heard in the past. However, Sames’ sensitive piano interlude validates and reinforces this choice. Cunningham’s voice shines on this piece in particular; there is a depth to her interpretation and a force behind her enunciation that draws in the listener. This piece serves as a lovely ending to a thoughtful and professionally executed album.