In my review of veteran NYC vocalist Marty Elkins splendid collection Fat Daddy, I mentioned that the term “re-imagining” was too limiting to describe her refreshing approach to classics and obscurities from the early heyday of jazz.
The same wonderful easy-reach adjective fail happens when listening to her pure, elegant, colorful and witty twists on songs originating from roughly the same era (1926-47) on
, her subtly rendered yet inventively sparkling duet album with famed jazz bassist Mike Richmond, who adds extra emotional resonance here and there with a few well placed cello passages.
Pooling their great passions for and pure, pin-drop sensitivity to timeless standards ranging from “Old Devil Moon” and Ellington’s “In A Mellow Tone” to “Honeysuckle Rose” and “I Ain’t Got Nothin’ But the Blues,” Elkins and Richmond create a perfect tag team, weaving sparse but deeply impactful renderings fusing her dazzling scat magic and what I have called her “soulful, divinely bluesy and often graceful and wistful vocals” with Richmond’s alternately sensitive and slyly playful harmony lines and plucky solos.
Though their unique versions set new standards in the Songbook tribute business, curious listeners may enjoy spirited Googling and YouTube sessions to unearth original and early versions of these tunes. Checking out some of these and comparing them with the new versions, it’s clear that Elkins and Richmond share a great reverence for musical history, both paying homage while seeking a simple yet contemporary way forward. This love of history extends to Richmond’s choice of instrumentation as well; the two entered the studio and went to town with a 170-year-old Tyrolean bass and a 120 year old Czechoslovakian cello.