***½

Another peek ahead to an early autumn release, this from jazz singer Mark Jennett with his band of bassist Geoff Gascoyne, pianist Rob Barron, drummer Sebastiaan de Krom, trumpeter Martin Shaw, and saxophonist/flautist Andy Panayi.

Opening with the Stephen Sondheim title track a song that featured in the second act of the 1960s musical social satire Anyone Can Whistle the horns riffing energetically against the up-tempo vocal line. Jennett has a soft light voice with good diction that compares a little to Ian Shaw’s sound and there’s plenty of mobility in his jazz referencing beyond his show sound. The Bacharach/David element of the album (Are You There (With Another Boy) and Wives and Lovers) is where Jennett emerges best, the band responding especially well to Gascoyne’s quite superb arrangement of Wives and Lovers. Barron’s stealthy opening to Some People sets the atmosphere of the song very strongly, and Jennett develops a nuanced hesitancy in his interpretation to match.

Juxtaposed against the gospelly chords of There’s Gotta Be Something Better Than This Jennett easing into the song, later How Long Has This Been Going On moves a little bit too much into the laidback cabaret domain despite the fresh little shuffle from de Krom at the beginning, but Jennett is more convincing on Cole Porter’s Just One of Those Things one of the more serious interpretations on the album.

Jennett folds in songs by Paul Simon, Jimmy Webb, and Randy Newman to sit with the jazzier Great American Songbook treatments, the Simon song Train in the Distance particularly coming off well. I wasn’t so keen on the overly syncopated Slow Boat to China at the end however Jennett is worth discovering, and there’s plenty of interest to enjoy provided by both singer and band.

By Stephen Graham, 5th July 2014, Marlbank