C. Michael Bailey – The Arrangement – All About JazZ

Vocalist Sylvia Brooks likes to provide her music a noir patina, that smoky and dark evening tone preferred by the likes of the fictional hard men: Sam Spade, Philip Marlowe, and Jeff Markham. On her third recording, The Arrangement, this patina is given a high buff shine into something more contemporary, without losing any of the inherent sexiness of the music and its delivery. The Arrangement is a delicious double entendre on the word “arrangement,” juxtaposing the darker side of love with a play on “arrangement,” here meaning the musical arrangement of the 14 selections contained herein. Miles Davis had made much of the importance of musical arrangement on his famous 1949 Nonet sides, showcasing the arrangements by Gerry Mulligan, John Lewis, Gil Evans, and John Carisi. Brooks looks back at this music, bringing the art of arrangement forward, her arrangers retaining an emphasis on soft soundscapes and counterpoint. The Arrangement is a project where Brooks directed her various arrangers: Otmaro Ruiz, Jeff Colella, Christian Jacob, Kim Richmond and Quinn Johnson, to accomplish two things: they had to incorporate both reeds and brass and, they could choose the musicians they thought would best complement the pieces. The results are plush and direct, smartly outfitted with soft smoothness. Brooks’ voice possesses a superior pliancy, enabling the singer to adapt to manifold musical environments. These environments include Ruiz’s humid Latin affairs, “”Perhaps,” “Midnight Sun,” (arranged by Kim Richmond with Ruiz on piano) and ”Besame Mucho;” and Jacob’s intelligent and swinging contemporary touch (“Eleanor Rigby, ”Never Let me Go”); and Quinn Johnson’s blues-swing infused pieces (“Cold Cold Heart,” “What Was I Thinking”). What all of the arrangements have in common is a svelte tautness that is as comely as it is durable. Brooks’ voice stands front and center in these expertly-crafted songs, a voice full of experience and learning, deftly prepared for any material, as is evidenced by this fine recording.