Renee Fleming – Haunted Heart – Renee Fleming, vocals; with Fred Hersch, piano and Bill Frisell, guitars – Decca

by | Oct 20, 2005 | Jazz CD Reviews | 0 comments

Renee Fleming – Haunted Heart – Renee Fleming, vocals; with
Fred Hersch, piano and Bill Frisell, guitars – Decca B0004406-02 – 64
min. ****:

Renee Fleming follows a seemingly longstanding tradition here of opera
divas by crossing over to the mainstream and presenting an album of
jazz-inflected showtunes. This scenario usually plays out to somewhat
mixed results; whereas a ton of Broadway and Tin Pan Alley tunes are
derived from operatic sources – usually not such a stretch for most
first-rank divas – sometimes the results are abysmal, with the divas
coming off sounding mechanical and soulless. Renee Fleming, however,
dabbled throughout her training and education with becoming a jazz
singer, and actually received an offer to come to New York and sing –
an offer she says scared her right into signing up for graduate school
where she eventually pursued her career as an opera singer. Jazz has
remained her secret passion, however, and she’s dreamed of making this
album for years.

The results here are nothing short of stunning. Ms. Fleming has taken a
very personal approach to her song selection, with many of the songs
coming from genres stretching far beyond the boundaries of jazz. Fred
Hersch provides piano accompaniment; his work is excellent as always.
Bill Frisell, whose work is often quirky and somewhat “out there” on
his own projects, offers tuneful and melodic runs and fills on guitar.
The tunes offer a mix of Renee with Fred, Renee with Bill, and
sometimes with both. Both Fred Hersch and Bill Frisell are incredible
musicians – this goes without saying, right? Their contributions to the
success of this album cannot be overstated.

The recording quality is top-notch; all of the personalities are
prominently placed in the soundfield, and the disc preserves a splendid
presentation of the recorded acoustic. Renee Fleming’s voice is
perfectly focused front and center – this is another of those
spectacular Red Book discs that blurs the line between high-res and
what Red Book discs are capable of. This disc is a must-have for all
fans of Renee Fleming and fans of just good jazz recordings in general.
Highly recommended.

Tracks: Haunted Heart; River; When Did You Leave Heaven?; You’ve
Changed; Answer Me; My Cherie Amour; In My Life; The Moon’s A Harsh
Mistress; Wozzeck/Improvisation/The Midnight Sun; Liebst du um
Schonheit; My One and Only Love/This Is Always; Cancao do Amor; Psyche;
Hard Times Come Again No More.

— Tom Gibbs

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