Reviews / Soultracks: May I Come In?

CD: May I Come In?
Review by Howard Dukes

I always like it when jazz musicians move away from the “same old, same old” while making a record of standards. As much as I like hearing Gershwin or Porter, they weren’t the only ones writing great songs back in the day. However, it’s real easy to fall into the trap of giving people what they want. It seems that sometimes the corporate suits (or whoever is making these decisions) forgets that jazz fans aren’t going to get too excited when they hear “Someone to Watch Over Me” for the umpteenth time. On May I Come In, vocalist Gail Pettis doesn’t give the listener warmed over renditions of the same Great American Songbook entries. Many of the 13 tracks on this CD could be rightly called much under-used standards. Pettis gives us something different. She also gives us a lot of substance. Pettis’ phrasing is tight and her diction is clear. She seems to put as much effort into saying each word as the writers put into writing each word. Pettis understands that it might be first time – or at least the first time in a very long time – that the listener has heard tunes such as “May I Come In,” or “Help A Good Girl Go Bad.” She wants the listener to come away with a feeling that they’ve heard something solid and memorable. What the listener hears is a singer who sings with intimacy and a sense of swing. Pettis also sings some well-worn tunes such as “Moonlight in Vermont,” “Black Coffee,” and “I’ve Grown Accustomed to Your Face.” One of the album’s highlights is Pettis’s performance of the song “Desafinado.” Many jazz listeners are familiar with the bossa nova tune. Turn on any jazz station, and you’ll eventually hear Stan Getz’s 1962 instrumental version. Pettis makes a bid for a little radio airplay with a lively version of the song. Anytime a new jazz vocalist emerges, people can’t seem to resist the temptation to make comparisons. For me, Pettis’ precise diction and intimate delivery reminds me of Nancy Wilson. If May I Come In draws those kinds of comparisons, I think Gail Pettis will be very happy. Recommended.

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