Rebecca Kilgore, unfailingly musical in any setting, sings with contrasting accompaniments in a pair of recent releases. In one, concentrating on songs with winter themes, she is accompanied by a distinguished European quartet. A second album finds her alone with the harmonically resourceful and swinging Chicago guitarist Andy Brown.
Arrangements by pianist Bernd Lhotzky and saxophonist Chris Hopkins make Winter Days At Schloss Elmau at once relaxed and adventurous. Kilgore and the quartet address a repertoire incorporating lyrics from a variety of writers that includes Dave Frishberg, Emily BrontÃ« and William Shakespeare. Recorded at the Bavarian Alps resort of Schloss Elmau, the performances before a live audience are intimate and stimulating. The band opens with Hoagy Carmichael’s “Winter Moon,” far from Carmichael’s best-known song but one of his loveliest, made more interesting by this performance employing a determined 5/4 time signature. There are impressive solos by Lhotzky, trumpeter Colin T.Dawson and alto saxophonist Chris Hopkins. Drummer Oliver Mewes is constantly stimulating in his rhythmic patterns. The earlier reference to Shakespeare was not a misprint. Lhotzky collaborated with Shakespeare across the centuries to make a song of the master’s “Sonnet 97,” with Ms. Kilgore employing her purest, softest high notes.
As I wrote in what seems to be the only pre-release endorsement I’ve ever agreed to, “It’s a treat to hear Rebecca Kilgore and Andy Brown intertwine her singing and his guitar. The album is remarkable for their musicianship, empathy and insights as they illuminate a dozen classic songs. It includes what is likely to be long considered the definitive version of Dave Frishberg’s and Johnny Mandel’s ‘You Are There.'”
In that new album on the Heavywood label, Together Live, Ms. Kilgore and Mr. Brown (pictured below) apply that deeply felt empathy to a dozen songs that, to paraphrase the title of one of them, might induce a nap if the rhythmic component of their work weren’t so compelling. That song is Benny Carter’s “Rock Me To Sleep,” composed by Carter in 1950 with a lyric by Paul Vandervoort II. There are other pieces by Frank Loesser, Victor Young, Ray Noble, Luis BonfÃ¡ and, from 1940, Artie Shaw’s “Any Old Time,” a hit for Shaw and Billie Holiday.
This is a captivating collection.