Time for Love
In the right hands, the jazz trio is a thing of marvelous beauty as the pianist, bassist and drummer react to and often anticipate each other's instant surprises. That comes night after night of playing together and listening with great care to -- and interest in -- the music they are making together. And when the pianist also is a charming singer, so much the better. That's the case with Debra Mann's A Time for Love, a CD that stands out musically, but whose selection and treatment of songs also speaks volumes about the joy and love in her life. The album title derives from a favorite Johnny Mandel tune, but it just as well could have been snatched from the air as a phrase reflecting her prevailing mood. Mann has graced New England's jazz stages for two decades since graduating from the Berklee College of Music. She's a very fine pianist and is blessed with a crystal clear, silky-sweet voice that grows on you. And for much of that time she has worked with her trio-mates here, bassist Mark Carlsen and drummer Jack Menna. Mark is a Boston jazz stalwart with a great sound and nice feel. Jack has been much in demand as one of the areaÕs tastiest, versatile and subtle drummers, having survived a few years on the road with the Artie Shaw Orchestra led by clarinetist Dick Johnson. With the table set for this musical feast, letÕs get right to the main course. They open this session with 'You're Everything,' a challenging Latin tune from Chick Corea's Return to Forever' band. Note their exploratory groove on the lush chord changes. Then comes an original ballad by Debra and Jack called 'Hold on to My Love.' Once they discovered they had common feelings about relationships each had experienced with others, Deb crafted the forward-thinking lyrics and these musical soul-mates worked together to Polish the words and melody. 'You Can Count on Me' is a swinging original by Debra, inspired by a vacation trip with her husband, Don, Morton, in which everything seemed to go wrong, but turned out to be nothing they couldn't deal with, thanks to their love and combined inner strength. It's fitting that Debra includes a Jobim song because she performs a birth month concert in the composer's honor each January. She chose 'Agua de Beber' with a twist. After all players stretch out on their spirited solos, Debra alternates between lyrics in the more poetic original Portuguese and English with great effect. The title track, 'A Time for Love,' is a straight-ahead ballad with no frills, just enjoying the intrinsic beauty of the song as written by Johnny Mandel. 'This is one of the most beautiful ballads I have ever heard,' Debra explained. 'I'm Old Fashioned,' with music by Jerome Kern and lyrics by another great Johnny M. -- Johnny Mercer -- has been in Debra's repertoire for many years. It swings like mad and has wonderful chord changes for improvising during their solos. This arrangement results from a collaboration between Debra and multi-instrumentalist Diamond Centofanti, who was a frequent bandmate a decade ago. The instrumental version of Earl Zindars' 'How My Heart Sings' has long been associated with late pianist Bill Evans, for whom it became an album title song and, several years ago, the title of his biography by Peter Pettinger. An extensive rearrangement, in which Debra added a few bars to each chorus plus an interlude, was only the beginning. Not knowing at the time that Zindars' wife, Anne, had written lyrics to the original melody, Mann wrote her own words to Evans' arrangement. 'I felt it was so melodic, calling out for lyrics, which I felt compelled to write,' Mann said. She sings about enjoying a lovely autumn night as the stars twinkle overhead. The evocativeGeorge Duke-Flora Purim tune 'Love Reborn' brings a modern, modal twist to the project. Listen to how the song soars during the chorus sections. 'I'm All Smiles' was written in 3/4 waltz time but swings more with the 4/4 feel that Debra opted for. 'Don't Go to Strangers' is a wonderful ballad for those truly in love, with a clever, true blue admonishment in the Redd Evans lyric for any who might be tempted to stray from a loving relationship. 'I love the strong lyric. The melody and harmony just get to me. And I just love singing it,' Debra says. Those who follow Debra's career will no doubt recognize 'From the Heart.' This original was the title track on a prior recording. But just as the trio has evolved over the years, so has this song. She wrote it at a fleeting time when the Providence, R.I., music scene was bubbling and jazz could be found in a dozen or more clubs most nights. Billy Strayhorn's 'Lush Life' was Debra's choice for a track to feature just piano and voice. 'It's bare and poignant,' she says. 'It was done in one take and felt good.' The CD closes with another original, 'Song for the Vineyard,' an uptempo instrumental with a Samba groove inspired by the splendid twin view of a beautiful meadow and the ocean beyond. 'I frequent places where the music isn't ordinary,' Debra sings in 'From the Heart.' For a discerning listener, this CD counts as one such place. -- Ken Franckling The Musicians: Debra Mann: Piano and vocals Mark Carlsen: Acoustic bass Jack Menna: Drums All music arrangements by Debra Mann, with the exception of 'I'm Old Fashioned' which was co-arranged with Diamond Centofanti. The studios: Recorded at Triad Recording Complex, Warwick, RI Recording dates: September 2, & 3, 1996 Recording Engineer: Steve LaValley Assistant Engineer: Don Morton Vocal overdubs and remixes at Celebration Sound, Warren, RI (Spring/2002) on tracks 1, 2, 4, 5, 7, & 13 Recording engineer: David Correia Assistant engineer: Don Morton Mastering (all tracks): David Correia The visual artists: Cover Design and photo: Rebecca Chandler, Chandler Design (Photos: Berge Zobian) The producers: Executive Producer: Don Morton Producer: Debra Mann The Debra Mann Trio is a piano/vocal jazz trio, established in 1990, with a solid chemistry and contagious warmth, performing classic jazz standards by the great American composers, as well as Brazilian composers, and original compositions. Debra Mann began her piano studies at age six. She graduated Cum Laude from Berklee College of Music. Since 1982 she has made her living exclusively as a performing musician. She has been a guest soloist with the Boston Pops and has carved out her niche in the New England area as a much sought after jazz pianist and vocalist, performing regularly with her trio and quartet. Debra has maintained a private teaching practice over the years. In recent years she received her Suzuki piano teacher training and keeps a full schedule teaching this world renowned method at The Music School of the RI Philharmonic in Providence. Ms. Mann is also a songwriter. Her trio recording 'From the Heart' was nominated 'best local recording' by the Providence Phoenix. Her new recording 'A Time for Love' was recently celebrated at a sold out performance at Chan's, RI's premier jazz club.