Local jazz chanteuse Taryn Noelle recently released her sophomore CD, There Was a Boy, which was recorded live at Stowe's Ye Olde England Inn last August. The disc makes her frosting-smooth voice the centerpiece of 11 affectionate torch songs.
Noelle has been likened to balladeers such as Julie London and Diane Krall, and it's an apt comparison. She sells each tune with the conviction of a seasoned performer, and her phrasing is emphatic yet intimate.
It helps that she's got a crack band behind her, including pianist Dan Skea, bassist John Rivers and drummer Cody Sargent. Each member adds subtle coloring while avoiding grandstanding.
Cole Porter's "Too Darn Hot" kicks things off. It's a respectable rendition that clues you in to what to expect on the rest of the album - namely, soft-focus, cabaret-style jazz.
Noelle's sultry, mid-range pipes are put to good use on "It Might as Well Be Spring," an Academy Award-winning Rogers & Hammerstein composition from the 1945 film State Fair. Noelle turns in a charming, if circumscribed version.
The sensual "Am I Blue" works exceptionally well. On it, Rivers' understated bass line provides a doting counterpoint to Noelle's simmering vocals. The overall effect is one of muted incandescence, like a candle viewed through sheer curtains.
"Never Never Land," on the other hand, is too schmaltzy for my tastes. The tune's airy flights of fancy are enough to make me swear off musical theater for eternity. Oh, wait, I already have.
Noelle's take on the Bobby Darin classic "Dream Lover" is inspired, with a slowed-down tempo that amplifies the ache and longing of the original.
Eden Ahbez's "Nature Boy" finds Noelle breaking away from the taffeta melodies of previous tracks. Ahbez was an eccentric composer whose work formed the cornerstone of what later became known as exotica. Noelle sounds perfectly comfortable with the tune's indigo tonalities; I only wish there were more tracks like this on the album.
"Why Can't You Behave?" is another Cole Porter number that showcases Noelle's playful side, while "In the Wee Small Hours" is a cozy little nocturne custom-made for slow dancing.
The album closes with a reading of "Bye Bye Blackbird" that nicely illustrates Noelle's knack for interpretation.
Smooth jazz isn't for all, or even most, occasions. But if you're in the mood for elegant amour, There Was a Boy might be just the ticket.