Though life circumstances and immersion in another business led to somewhat of a late start in launching her singing career Libby York has more than made up for lost time, performing with the likes of John Di Martino, Warren Vache, Russell Malone and Renee Rosness – and dazzling fans and critics alike with a handful of critically acclaimed albums over the past 25 years, starting with Blue Gardenia.
On the appropriately titled DreamLand, her first album in almost a decade, York brings her sultry vocals, sharp, engaging (and often witty!) phrasing and storytelling skills and inimitable dual sense of intimacy and swing to a unique set of offbeat but emotionally engaging standards (and a few dazzling relative obscurities) that have personal meanings for her. The singer traces her gentle and hushed, sparsely-arranged twist on “Something Cool” (featuring only elegant accompaniment of guitarist-co-producer Randy Napoleon) to the June Christy version that was an early addition to her record collection.
York later sang it at the closing concert of an 80s NYC vocal workshop she was part of. Her teacher was the great Abbey Lincoln, whose inspiring, deeply philosophical ballad “Throw It Away” (about the magical I Ching) offers an opportunity for York and her trio (also featuring bassist Rodney Whitaker and drummer Keith Hall to express uncommonly soulful and heartfelt elegance. York also connects personally to the whimsical “Rhode Island Is Famous For You,” bringing her innate sense of humor and cool swing to a tune she first heard sung by Sandy Stewart at Bill Charlap’s Jazz in July series in New York.
Opening with her lushly romantic whirl through Johnny Mercer’s charming poetry on “Hit the Road to Dreamland,” York imparts the sense that she’s taking us on a special journey that includes everything from a lesser known Jobim gem (translated in English to “This Happy Madness’) – her charming ode to finding love later in life – to “Mountain Greenery” and “Still on the Road,” tunes that embody York’s sense of musical and life adventure.
She artfully balances this sense of buoyancy with tinges of soft spoken melancholy via “Cloudy Morning” and the always welcome Barry Manilow/Johnny Mercer reflection “When October Goes.” She wraps on a high-spirited note with the eternally optimistic “It’s Love,” which she had the privilege to perform with its composer, the great Leonard Bernstein, at a long ago party in Key West.