Deborah Pearl – Souvenir of You – Evening Star ES115, 58:53 *****:
(Deborah Pearl – vocals; Lou Forestieri – piano and keyboards; Chris Colangelo, Kenny Wild – acoustic bass; Dave Karasony, Jimmy Branly – drums; Benny Carter – alto sax accompanied by his big band with the Rutgers University Orchestra)
Deborah Pearl is a bright talent in the entertainment world. Her many accomplishments are as a singer, writer, and lyricist. She was a comedy writer for almost a decade with her most notable work being for the TV show “Designing Women”. She has been a backup singer for Linda Ronstadt, E Yazawa, Oasis, Neil Young and others. She is a professional singer and recording artist with London Records. She wrote and performed a critically-acclaimed one woman musical called “Chick Singers”, performing as six different women singers singing blues, opera, jazz, pop and country who all rise and fall by the love and power of music. She was encouraged by Benny Carter that she could be a jazz singer with her voice and range. After reading a bit about what I could learn of Ms. Pearl, and listening to her album, I understood the significance of her talents at being so convincing as a singer and lyricist on this album. Deborah through friendship with Benny Carter and his wife Hilma had much contact with Benny’s music. Hilma Carter some years after Benny’s passing (almost 8 years ago) contacted Deborah to evaluate some lyrics sent to her by another for Benny’s music. Deborah became inspired and with Hilma Carter’s encouragement set about writing lyrics for Benny’s songs on her project Souvenir of You. It is an album of tribute to the love and story of Betty and Hilma Carter.
Souvenir of You is a blending of songs of Benny Carter with lyrics added and sung by lyricist Deborah Pearl and a tribute to that great artist and the love he and his wife Hilma shared through the years. It had a high impact on my listening pleasure. Deborah Pearl has been touted as having a good jazz voice. I just love understatements. She has a wonderful alto voice with a very large range that amazed me. After hearing the complete album listening to Benny Carter’s compositions and hearing and reading the lyrics Pearl wrote, color me totally satisfied, and this is her debut album! She sings the music and lyrics with an appealing naturalness. She has real ability at interpreting jazz and ballad style singing even including a little scattin’.
“Happy Feet” (At the Savoy) is a remix with Deborah recording with a live recorded track from Benny Carter and his Big Band with the Rutgers University Orchestra which is similar to the Nat King Cole / Natalie Cole recording remix “Unforgettable” from a couple decades ago. It is indicated that this rendering was reminiscent of the dancing at the legendary Harlem Ballroom where Benny Carter first met his future wife Hilma in 1939. Deborah and her trio of Lou Forestieri on piano, Kenny Wild on bass, and Jimmy Branly on drums blend in well with Benny and the Big Band. “Happy Feet” definitely comes off giving us a good measure of happiness.
“People Time” is a Benny Carter song that has been covered by so many great musicians such as Stan Getz, Phil Woods, J. J. Johnson, Joe Wilder and Roberta Gambarini with Hank Jones. Deborah Pearl has added lyrics that are emotional and inspiring of the unrequited love of the Carters over 3 decades of separation and coming together again. It was a very heartfelt song for me. I had always enjoyed the instrumental version, but this with words really enhances what was in their hearts.
“Doozy Blues” is a fun tune with some great jazz singing by Ms Pearl with the trio. It is a toe tapper and swings with sort of that Annie Ross style including some easy moving scattin’. The song seems dedicated to the new cellphone/texting era with these lyrics. “Sunday Morning Comes” has that slow ballad style sound that fits a lazy Sunday as Ms. Pearl describes a break from work and breakfast in bed. Putting worries behind and spending time with your significant other. Good stuff!
“Scattin’ Back to Harlem (aka Sugar Hill Slow Drag),” is a cool, walkin’ song with that great bass line walking you along. Ms. Pearl gives us great lyrics; slow swinging singing with scat thrown in the mix. “Again and Again (I Try to Pretend),” is a soulful torch song crooned by Ms. Pearl. She is the melody line singing this statement of longing to “hold you again”.
“Anniversary Dance (Song of Long Ago)” is another remix of Benny Carter and his Big Band with the Rutgers University Orchestra with Ms. Pearl on vocals. It is a very meaningful song in waltz time with Benny Carter joining in a sax solo. Later in the album is a bluesy tune called “An Elegy in Blue” written by Benny Carter to memorialize the passing of Benny’s friend from Japan, Dr. Kiyoshi Makita. The beautiful blues song is exquisite with Ms. Pearl’s lyrics added.
“Souvenir of You” is the final track of the album and is a tribute written by Benny Carter when he heard of the passing of famed saxophonist of the Ellington Era, Johnny Hodges. As I listened to the melody it sounded that mournful ballad style reminiscent of Johnny Hodges. Deborah Pearl has aptly added great lyrics to make this the ending of the album. The partial lyrics “Time takes our verses away/ But melodies live on/ Forever playing your song/ At heaven’s door/ And here, a souvenir of you” are so profound in my opinion.
Souvenir of You is a wonderful mix of melodies that are full of joy, some blues, and even a samba. There is a surprise in every track of this exquisite, joyous and sometimes heart rending project. The sound quality is excellent and clear. The liner notes contain the lyrics of all 13 tracks and an explanation of the project as well as a mention of Deborah Pearl’s feelings for the Carters. This is a debut album for Deborah Pearl and it is top class.
TrackList: Happy Feet (At The Savoy); Wonderland (Isle of Love); People Time (Forever Mine); Doozy Blues; Sunday Morning Comes; Scattin’ Back To Harlem; Again and Again (I Try to Pretend); Anniversary Dance; Johnny True; Sail Away With Me; An Elegy in Blue; Sky Dance for Two; Souvenir of You.
— Tim Taylor