about the arrangement

You can tell a lot about a musician from the company she keeps. Ever since Sylvia Brooks started performing in the jazz realm, she has collaborated with some of the Los Angeles’ most expressive and accomplished players. On her simmering 2009 debut Dangerous Liaisons and 2012’s captivating follow up Restless she conjured an erotically-charged, noir-tinged realm by exposing the the deep currents of longing, desperation and heartache running through the American Songbook. Her third release doesn’t dispel the shadows with sunlight so much as switch from black and white to Technicolor as Brooks revels in the vividly detailed and consistently innovative arrangements of Kim Richmond, Otmaro Ruiz, Jeff Colella, Christian Jacob, and Quinn Johnson. From the beginning Brooks distinguished herself with her empathic ability to inhabit a song, turning classic tunes into taut and emotionally revelatory tales. In a major creative leap, she’s also telling her own stories now, contributing to three original songs that blend seamlessly with a diverse program that ranges from Cole Porter to Hank Williams to Lennon and McCartney. What unites the sleekly bespoke arrangements is Brooks’ luscious sound and inviting sensibility. Welcoming listeners into her musical world, she takes them on an exhilarating journey deep into the hidden recesses of the human heart, where love, lust and loneliness contend for primacy. It’s a trip that requires an artist with an exquisite sound and a rarified talent for drawing the best out of her musical partners, and Sylvia Brooks has made The Arrangement.

For Your Listening

the arrangement - reviews

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.

C. Michael Bailey – All About Jazz

“Chops like this are practically one of a kind, and are not to be missed”
Chris Spector- Midwest Record Review

” A Leading Idea”
Michael Carlson

The Arrangement

The Arrangement In The Studio