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Sunday, July 17, 2011

Catherine Sykes - Something Wonderful

Catherine Sykes - Something Wonderful
2011, Catherine Sykes

Catherine Sykes is a vocalist from Yorkshire, England who has quietly become one of the most respected interpreters of American style jazz in Europe.  Performing throughout Europe with The Glenn Miller Orchestra UK, The Manhattan Orchestra and the Duke Ellington Repertory Orchestra, Sykes has built an impressive following.  Her travels have even taken her to a prime residency in Japan.  Sykes' previous album, Singing In, was featured on the UK's Radio 2 and Humphrey Lyttleton's Best Of Jazz radio program.  Sykes rides that momentum into album number two, a collection of updated jazz standards entitled Something Wonderful

Sykes opens with George & Ira Gershwin's "I've Got A Crush On You", showing off a sweet and mature alto voice that just melts into your ears.  This is the perfect intro number for Sykes, who sounds like she would have been right at home on an AM radio dial alongside Kay Starr, Jo Stafford and Sarah Vaughan.  "Lean Baby" is a solid number that allows Sykes to shine, although her pianist nearly steals the show with a wicked solo in the breakdown.  Juan Tizol and Irving Mills' "Caravan" is a slinky little Latin Jazz love song that shows off some of the unusual timbre of Sykes' voice.  Stylistically it's a pleasant surprise slipped in here, and musically, Syke's band achieves a moment of perfect in interpretation.

Sykes heads to Broadway with Vernon Dake's "Taking A Chance On Love (Cabin In The Sky), and delivers one of the standout performances on the album.  A stylish vocal line is matched by a distinctive energy in the backing band, creating musical sparks.  Sykes is in fine voice, and manages to create a classic sound in the process of interpreting an underappreciated gem.  "London By Night" is a supper club number that blends a sense of excitement with regretful melancholy.  This isn't Sykes' most memorable effort, but the song is solid throughout.    Antonio Carlos Jobim's "Waters Of March" gets watered down next in a well-intended but ultimately imperfect effort.  Sykes is in wonderful voice here, and shows a distinctive talent for phrasing, but the emotional impact here is somewhat lackluster.  Stylistic and technically superior, this version just doesn't capture the sense of wonder this song conveys at its best.  

Sykes recovers nicely on Rodgers and Hart's "I Could Write A Book" (Pal Joey), delivering a classic reading of a classic number in dark and dulcet tones.  Cole Porter's "Every Time We Say Goodbye" (Pal Joey), finds Sykes serving up a gorgeous vocal line alongside a vibrant acoustic guitar accompaniment.  This is perhaps the most intimate vocal moment on the album, and Sykes absolutely shines.  "He's Not The Boy I Knew Before" is a cute number that wears thin with its playful, stream of conscious style.  Sykes handles it well vocally, but this song just isn't a great fit for the flow of the album.  Rodgers & Hammerstein's "Something Wonderful" (The King And I) features Sykes delivering her most lovely and lyric vocal line of the album, over a gorgeous piano accompaniment that flows like water.  Sung here as a smooth, sweet love song, Sykes creates a "Wow" moment, where time stops and you can simply get lost in the song.  Something Wonderful winds to a close with "Let's Get Away From It All", a solid number that unfortunately is almost an afterthought in the wake of "Something Wonderful".

Catherine Sykes has a voice that draws you in, sits you down, and impresses on you the need to stay for awhile.  Her interpretations on Something Wonderful are generally right on target, and occasionally pass over the barrier into the sublime.  It's easy to understand why Sykes is so in demand in Europe, and hard to understand why we haven't heard much of her yet on this side of the pond.  But with a voice like the one you'll hear on Something Wonderful, you have to conclude that it's only a matter of time.

Rating: 4 Stars (Out of 5)

Learn more about Catherine Sykes at  Something Wonderful is available as a CD or Download from

1 comment:

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