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"If you ain't got it in you, you can't blow it out."
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Monday, December 6, 2010

Hilary Kole: You Are There

I had never heard Hilary Kole before, a very young and lovely jazz singer based ('f course) in New York.  She is the youngest singer ever to play in just about every room she has graced, and her chops are remarkable -- remarkably sensitive and subtle.  She's not a Robo-Ella like li'l Nikki Yanovsky.

Her latest (and second) album is called You Are There.  You can read my PopMatters review HERE.  This disc features eleven (11!) different jazz pianists in duet with Kole.  And they are the best in the biz: Cedar Walton, Kenny Barron, Alan Broadbent, the late/great Hank Jones, and on and on it goes.  And some of the tracks here are exquisite.  The version of "I Remember" from Sondheim's Evening Primrose is absolutely sublime.  Some of the more played-to-death standards are good but not revelatory—"Lush Life" with Barron, for example, is merely very good.  But how many very good "Lush Life"s have you heard?

A personal peeve: I love the title track, "You Are There" by Dave Frishberg and Johnny Mercer.  It should be a lock-down jazz standard, what with a searching, melancholy melody and heart-breaking lyrics that are free of cliche.  But this version is clunker, with Kole pushing it way to hard, kind of Broadway-ing it up with too much vocal ACTING.  Sorry, Hilary, but you overdid that one.  Which is an anomaly here.

This project was constructed over four years, and it's incredible that a young singer like Kole could get the deans of jazz piano to work with her on such a focused project.  She's a huge talent.  But you're excused if You Are There isn't a disc you return to over and over again.  It's too much of too little.  Or something like that.

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