Stacey Kent – Summer Me, Winter Me (ENG review)

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Stacey Kent – Summer Me, Winter Me

There are as many styles of jazz singers as there are styles of jazz, and some are particularly important in this small world, as is the case with Stacey Kent. Certainly, you won’t find any original compositions on this album, but rather standards that this lover of letters, this passionate wordsmith, has chosen in both English and French. If you’re not yet familiar with Stacey Kent, I urge you to listen to her rendition of Jacques Brel’s ‘Ne me quitte pas,’ which she also interprets in English as ‘If you Go Away.’

‘Interpret’ is indeed the right word because, from my point of view, Stacey Kent is one of the greatest interpreters currently in the jazz world. Her art lies in appropriating each chosen title and performing them flawlessly. ‘Summer Me, Winter Me’ is certainly the most personal album she has released. Indeed, titles like these are not chosen randomly; they must find a common thread to hold them together on an album. Between travels, love, ‘Happy Talk,’ there are themes developed throughout this album. Stacey, without seeking to impress anyone, does admirable work here, with precision and poetry in her interpretation. She even chooses French or English to add a literary intention or a delicate swing, as seen in ‘Under Paris Skies,’ an old French song where she uses her native language to give it a jazz flavor.

I’ve heard many French and non-French singers attempt ‘Ne me quitte pas,’ often failing in their rendition. This is the first time I’ve heard a singer capture the artistic essence of the song as Jacques Brel intended, which is an extremely complex exercise, especially if one wants to avoid imitation. In chronological order on this album, you’ll hear the English version, where Stacey Kent infuses it with a poetic form and emotion. In the French version, one is immediately captivated by her beautiful pronunciation of the words and quickly drawn into the literary intention of the piece, which she has perfected to offer her version. I don’t know anyone besides this artist who has understood Brel’s universe so well. I wonder what she could do with equally beautiful songs by Léo Ferré, such as ‘La Nuit’ or ‘Beau Saxo.’ I am rarely impressed by albums, but this is truly a great album by a very talented yet understated artist, placing her at the same level as the best Sinatra albums. There is certainly much joy to be found in it!

I’ll conclude with these words, thanking Stacey Kent for this magnificent work. For once, here’s an artist whom I didn’t know before but whose work I’ve admired for a long time. To interpret songs with such vocal quality, one must be able to deliver what is deep within oneself, which is also very courageous. And although this album is not a collection of original compositions, it would be unworthy not to include it in our ‘Essentials.’

‘Summer Me, Winter Me,’ in its Deluxe version, offers no less than 12 tracks that you can enjoy alone or with friends, as you wish, and it will surely bring happiness to many.

Stacey Kent’s words:

“At the end of a concert, during a signing session, I’m often asked: ‘Which album is this song on?’ As concerts invariably mix old and new repertoire, I sometimes find myself replying: ‘It’s on none of them.’ This album therefore brings together several songs, likely to provide an answer to all those who, over the years, have asked us, somewhat disappointed: ‘You haven’t recorded If You Go Away?’ For the first time, I also record the same song twice on an album. I added If You Go Away to my repertoire in 2018 when Jim wrote an orchestral arrangement for a concert in Paris. I have occasionally sung the original by Jacques Brel, Ne me quitte pas. But regardless of the language, there was always someone asking me why I hadn’t chosen the other version. Some singers have alternated between the two languages: in both versions, the lyrics are inherently beautiful and deserve to be defended. So, I chose to record both. While this may not be strictly an album intended to fulfill requests, Summer Me, Winter Me, is a response to an informal and impromptu survey, compiling some of your most significant ‘requests.’ I hope you’ll enjoy this selection; I look forward to being able to tell you at my next concert: ‘It’s on this album.’
With love, SK”

Jim Tomlinson words:

The majority of the songs on Summer Me, Winter Me are standards that we’ve played during our concerts throughout the years preceding the three recording sessions required to make this album. Michel Legrand, Marilyn and Alan Bergman, Rodgers and Hammerstein, Lerner and Lowe, and Jobim: all names that will certainly be familiar to you, and that Stacey often sings. This program also includes well-known melodies from France that later became universal standards through English adaptations. Jacques Brel’s Ne me quitte pas thus becomes If You Go Away, thanks to the lyrics by Rod McKuen, or Sous le ciel de Paris, transformed into Under Paris Skies, with adorable lyrics by Kim Gannon. You’ll also find here Postcard Lovers, a song I wrote with Kazuo Ishiguro and that we’ve only performed in concerts so far, as well as two new songs co-written with Cliff Goldmacher, especially for Stacey. Often, I consider arrangement as a complementary process to composition. When arranging, I first pay attention to the lyrics: they are what turn a melody into a song. When composing, generally, I always have lyrics written by one of my collaborators. In both cases, ultimately, I respond to a text. Then, Stacey’s unique talent for telling a story and conveying emotion through words transfigures this approach. The most observant among you will notice that Postcard Lovers, a song written with Kazuo Ishiguro and originally intended for the live album Dreamer in Concert, is presented here in a new version. Over the years, I realized that I had left the work table a little too early, so I decided to revise this song, following Stacey’s suggestion: to transpose it into three-four time. The lyrics have not been changed; I just rethought the music, making it more refined. I wrote the two new songs for this album, Thinking About the Rain and A Song That Isn’t Finished Yet, with Cliff Goldmacher in 2017. We started performing them during our 2019-2020 tour. So, even if you’ve seen us in concert, it’s highly likely that you haven’t heard them. During these performances, they generated a lot of interest from the audience. We received many requests about them, and consequently, it was natural to include them here. What a privilege it has been to successfully bring this album to fruition, from its conception to its completion! I hope you’ll enjoy listening to it as much as I enjoyed producing it.

Atists present on this album: Stacey Kent: voice – Jim Tomlinson: tenor saxophone, flute, alto flute, clarinet, guitar, percussion, keyboards – Art Hirahara: piano – Tom Hubbard: bass – Anthony Pinciotti: drums [1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 7, 9, 10] – Aurélie Chenille: first violin – Claire Chabert: second violin – Fabrice Planchat: alto – Gabriel Planchat: cello [5] – Graham Harvey: piano – Jeremy Brown: bass – Joshua Morrison: drums [6, 8, 11]

Thierry De Clemensat
USA correspondent – Paris-Move and ABS magazine
Editor in chief Bayou Blue Radio, Bayou Blue News

PARIS-MOVE, May 14th 2024

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