In my rave review of Can’t Get Out of This Mood, Beverley Church Hogan’s delightful 2019 debut album which she recorded at the tender age of 84, I covered all the inspiring parts of her “never too late to pursue those jazz dreams” background – including the fact that since first headlining at L.A.’s Catalina Jazz Club in 2002, she’s been a perennial performer, drawing enthusiastic sellout crowds that inspired her to launch her recording career at the right time.
Three years on, still in fine, smoky, sly, soulful and ever wiser jazz voice, Beverley greets a hopeful post pandemic world with a Sweet Invitation to hear her swing a batch of mostly lesser known Great American Songbook standards. Working with her always adventurous longtime pianist/arranger John Proulx, she builds sensually and whimsically on the charms of her first album, with a few fresh twists – most notably, a new ensemble of L.A. jazz greats (guitarist Grant Geissman, saxophonist Bob Sheppard, bassist Lyman Medeiros, drummers Clayton Cameron and Dean Koba) and percussionist Kevin Winard.
Ensuring that every choice in material, arrangement, rhythmic diversity, soloing and sonic detail is the utmost in tastefulness, and that no proverbial emotional stone is unturned, Beverley chose the great singer, songwriter and artist Mark Winkler to produce the set. Every song choice, from the sassy “Don’t Go ‘way Mad” and moody “Here’s That Rainy Day” through the punchy, struttin’ “I’m Just Foolin’ Myself” and gently intimate “Why Try to Change Me Now?”, is more inspired than the last.
A personal favorite is “When October Goes,” an exquisite wistful ballad written by Barry Manilow years after receiving Johnny Mercer’s lyrics from the great songwriter’s widow. It’s been recorded by everyone from Nancy Wilson to Lea Salonga, but there’s something even more breathtaking and life affirming about an 80something woman at the height of her creative power singing a song about the passing of time with such pin drop perfection; Proulx’s piano accompaniment is a revelation as well. Listening to Sweet Invitation, a collection that truly lives up to its name, it’s clear that Beverley is just getting warmed up for even greater works in the future.