Irene Kral – Second Chance – Jazzed Media JM1049 (1975), 54:32 ****½:
(Irene Kral, vocals; Alan Broadbent, piano; Peter Marshall, bass; Frank Severino, drums)
Those who know me can confirm that my interest in jazz is mostly instrumental. It takes a special voice to make me sit up and take close notice. Whereas many newcomers to jazz miss the vocals that rock and pop music provide, many times to me a vocalist can get in the way of a good horn solo or an ensemble horn section.
However, one vocalist who has always made me marvel, and has never received her due is Irene Kral. The younger sister of Roy Kral (of Jackie and Roy fame), Ms. Kral had a relatively short career, as she died of cancer at age 46 in 1978. Jazzed Media has once again pulled a rabbit out of its classy hat by finding another unissued Irene Kral live recording from 1975 as a perfect bookend to its 2004 release of Just for Now. That session features the equally brilliant pianist Mike Wofford. Alan Broadbent and Irene make a superb partnership as each have a simpatico that helps the listener appreciate Alan’s deliberate sensitive playing while savoring Irene’s alto caress and express the emotion found in standards by song masters like Johnny Mandel, Jerome Kern and Oscar Hammerstein, Andre Previn, and Jimmy Van Heusen. As this live session was recorded in 1975, Irene also includes songs from that era such as Tim Hardin’s “Misty Roses” and Leon Russell’s “This Masquerade.” Producer, and owner of Jazzed Media, Graham Carter, is fortunate that his current engineer, Rod Nicas, handled the recording duties August 29th and 30th in 1975 and is present today to do an audiophile quality remastering of this session.
It is easy to fall in love with Irene’s voice. It is warm, expressive, and her intonation is so exceptional that you hear each word clearly and can appreciate the lyrics, as she takes her time in a fashion similar to Shirley Horn. Second Chance is made up largely of ballads, which are perfect for Kral. She could also gently swing when needed as “Unlit Room” and “Nobody Else But Me” demonstrate. Tim Hardin’s “Misty Roses’ has an airy bossa nova feel that is brought out by drummer, Frank Severino.
“Never Let Me Go” provides a musical conversation between Irene and Alan, as his solo after Irene’s heartfelt reading of Livingston and Evans’ lyrics ties the package together with a sparkling bow. Irene also had a way with humorous lyrics such as found on “It Isn’t So Good It Couldn’t Get Better” and Bob Dorough’s cut to the bone “Unlit Room.”
A true test of a jazz singer’s abilities is how they handle a pop song that is associated strongly with another artist. Such is the case with Leon Russell’s “This Masquerade” and Kral and Broadbent handle this task with ease. Broadbent’s sparkling piano lines and Irene’s up-tempo vocals spurred on by Frank Severino’s cymbal work leaves Russell’s laconic version in the dust.
Irene Kral belongs in the upper echelon of female jazz singers. Jazzed Media has provided the “second chance” for her rediscovery. Take them up on their offer to hear this special singer in an intimate setting.
TrackList: The Night Has a Thousand Eyes, Second Chance, Something to Remember You By, Misty Roses, A Time for Love/ Small World Isn’t It, Oh You Crazy Moon, Never Let Me Go, It isn’t So Good it Couldn’t Get Better, Sometime Ago, Unlit Room, Star Eyes, This Masquerade, Something In Your Smile/ When I Look in Your Eyes, Nobody Else But Me
— Jeff Krow