As we regale in being graced by sultry and stylish vocalist Laura Stilwell on her engaging, alternately soul-sensual and briskly swinging debut Out of a Dream, we might ponder how it is that we haven’t gotten wind of her ample charms earlier.
After all, before blessing us with her keen, intuitive and richly imaginative jazz skills, she had been enjoying a stellar career that includes performing all over the world (New York, Tokyo, Brazil, Milan), working with pianist Tommy James and guitarist Diego Garcia and Luis Claudio Sousa, appearing in a production of “In the Heights” and performing in all-star Motown Tributes. Oh, and did we mention coaching singers and dancers?
Yes, the lady’s been busy and her ability to hop genres at a whirlwind pace may have contributed to delaying the launch of her solo career focused on the one (jazz) we need her to stay with now that we’ve found her. It’s always great when an artist like her can finally focus on her truest passion, and beyond that lovely, very adaptable voice, she chooses her favorite standards rather than just the tried and true – and works with a fantastic ensemble featuring James (whose solos on tunes like “Out of Nowhere” and graceful accompaniment on the ballad “If I Should Lose You” add sparkling magic), bassists Perry Thorsell and Dennis Caiazza, drummer Ron Steen and, on a few tunes, Dave Evans on tenor sax and clarinet.
The offbeat selections, which set Stilwell’s debut apart from most veteran vocalists making their debut with standards, include Jobim’s “Initul Paisagem (If You Never Come To Me”), a sassy, whimsical spin on the Benny Goodman hit “Don’t Be That Way” and an infectious breezy samba stroll through “You Stepped Out of a Dream.”