Betty Buckley Quintessence
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- Released: February 5, 2008
- Originally Released: 2008
- Label: Sony
Song previews provided courtesy of iTunes
Quintessence is the "pure and concentrated essence of a substance" and the title of a beautiful album from vocalist Betty Buckley and longtime producer/musical arranger/pianist Kenny Werner, who is co-credited on the cover. Not actually a "compilation," the liner notes by Betty Lynn Buckley explain that this studio disc, the musical duo's ninth album over a span of two decades, represents more of an open arrangement to rework the music the singer is associated with. For example, she extends Arthur Alexander's classic "Cry Me a River" from the sparse -- and shorter -- 3:09 version on 1997's Much More album to a more elaborate and experimental vamp that is double in length. Where Jane Olivor is overpowering in her sublime grandiosity, Buckley takes the subtle approach, though with a dash of Olivor's inflections. For those not in touch with Buckley's recordings, this will serve as a good starting point, the rendition of Stephen Sondheim's "No One Is Alone" adding a bit more pop to the tune's jazz leanings, and also contrasting with Buckley's own cautious rendition from 1993's Children Will Listen CD. Some purists may object to the treatment of the Rex Harrison nugget "I've Grown Accustomed to Her Face," not spoken … la Harrison, and further morphed by being combined in a medley with Oscar Levant's "Blame It on My Youth." Where Janice Borla on From Every Angle gives a breathy rendition to the Levant classic, Werner and Buckley make it introspective and daintily methodical. Hoagy Carmichael's "Stardust" is absorbed by Buckley's persona, material so well-loved that reinterpretation, though imperative, comes with risks. The singer lets the listener judge if those risks are rewarded. Brenda Russell's "Get Here" is truly sentimental, and one of the most moving pieces of these dozen new musical essays from Betty Lynn and her longtime musician friends. Composers from Sergio Mendes to Leonard Bernstein are embraced, the West Side Story show tune "Something's Coming" giving the artist a chance to offer traditional sounds along with the self-exploration. Quintessence is full of loveliness and should bring in new fans, but it also hints that there are more paths for these artists to pursue and that they intend to do so with an eye toward shaking things up. ~ Joe Viglione
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