Melody Gardot – My One And Only Thrill – Verve Records (2009)/Original Recording Group (2015) 45 rpm stereo vinyl (2 discs), 48:07 ****1/2:

(Melody Gardot – guitar, piano, vocals; Gary Foster – alto saxophone; Bryan Rogers – tenor saxophone, vocals;  Patrick Hughes – trumpet, vocals; Andy Martin – trombone; Ken Pendergast – bass, vocals; Charlie Patierno – drums, vocals; Larry Klein – bass, vocals; Vinnie Colaiuta – drums; Pualinho da Costa – percussion; Behn Gillece – vibraphone; Larry Goldings – Hammond organ; Kiko Abondolo – double bass; Drew Dembowski – double bass; Vince Mandoza – string arrangements, and many others)

Melody Gardot started playing music at the age of nine in Philadelphia. At fifteen, she was playing piano in Philadelphia bars as a sixteen-year-old. Her eclectic realm included Duke Ellington, The Mamas & The Papas, and groups like Radiohead. A terrible bicycle accident derailed the trajectory of her career. While she was recovering, Gardot learned to play the guitar and compose songs. Eventually, she was discovered by radio station WXPN, who encouraged her to make a demo. Her debut, Worrisome Heart was released by Universal (2005), and later, re-released by Verve in 2008. Her next effort (My One And Only Thrill) was produced by Larry Klein, and featured the single “Who Will Comfort Me” The song became a top-ten hit on the Smooth Jazz charts, Gardot has both critical appeal and an independent approach to music that has separated her from the crowd.

Original Recording Group has issued a re-mastered 180-gram 45 rpm audiophile recording of My One and Only Thrill. Recorded in New Jersey and Los Angeles, the album features nearly all original compositions. The styles vary and Gardot displays a great deal of versatility. Side A opens with “Baby I’m A Fool”, highlighting a lush string arrangement (Vince Mendoza) and jazzy acoustic guitar. Gardot has a sultry, fluent voice. She infuses interesting phrasing and inflections (with a subtle touch of vibrato and vocalese) that make this love song very accessible. “If The Stars Were Mine” is stripped down and has a distinct intimacy. There is a bouncy cadence in this Brazilian tempo that has a basic guitar/voice structure. Switching gears, “Who Will Comfort Me” is less optimistic, and infuses (literally) a finger-snapping groove. The instrumentation is expanded on the second verse and includes a muted trumpet solo (Patrick Hughes) and organ accents. Gardot’s voice is silky and capable of singing blues in a restrained, mellower translation.

Side B begins with a “low-down”, 20s-like jazz piece. Clearly, this is bad love and the trumpet/piano intro is alluring. Gardot is a gifted jazz singer with meticulous articulation and winsome emotion. In hushed tones, “Lover Undercover” starts with a meditative voice/piano duet, and then expands with silken textures and string counterpoints. The singer’s delicacy and meditative resonance never diminish. “Our Love Is Easy” feels cinematically haunting (like a film noir) and the mood is set by the classical strings. Like most great singers, Gardot can make the song fit her voice. “Les Etoiles” is rhythmic and she delivers the lyrics in French and English. Her unique vocalese riffs are agile and help the song. Here the addition of vibraphone and saxophone affix an eloquent festiveness. In contrast, “The Rain” maintains its brooding melancholy. The title track is the centerpiece of this album. With a sweeping classical setup, it is a quintessential “torch song”. Gardot’s intricate way with words is dynamic and represents her most challenging vocal performance. It also includes the most effective use of the string orchestration with a compelling instrumental passage.

Side D showcases Gardot’s meditative elegance on “Deep Within The Corners Of My Mind”. The context of voice and strings is a good match. Her vocals possess a gentle lilt that caresses the melody. She reinvents the lone cover, “Over The Rainbow” into a gliding samba with folk guitar. Most singers go for the sentimental and in some cases, overwrought elements of this number. To her credit, Gardot does her own thing. The final cut is an orchestral version of “If The Stars Were Mine”.

ORG has done a superb job on this expensive 45 rpm vinyl re-mastering. Gardot’s voice is captured with glowing warmth and pristine clarity. All of the instrumentation is smooth and wraps around the beautiful voice. The tonality of the string section is vibrant. This is comparable to upper-tier digital recording, subject to auditory preferences. The gatefold packaging and plastic sleeves are top-notch.


Side A: Baby I’m A Fool; If The Stars Were Mine; Who Will Comfort Me
Side B: Your Heart Is As Black As Night; Love Undercover; Our Love Is Easy
Side C: Les Etoiles; The Rain; My One And Only Thrill
Side D: Deep Within The Corners Of My Mind; Over The Rainbow, If The Stars Were Mine (orchestral version)

–Robbie Gerson