Tessa Souter – Beyond The Blue ★★★★

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Tessa Souter (v), Joel Frahm (saxes), Steve Kuhn (p), David Finck (b), Joe Locke (vib) and Gary Versace (acc). Rec. 27-28 March 2011

On her fourth CD, Beyond the Blue, her second for New York-based Motéma Music, vocalist Tessa Souter dips into the classical repertoire with 12 exquisite arrangements of music by Chopin, Brahms, Schubert and more. While three of the songs are well-known standards – ‘The Lamp is Low’ (Ravel), ‘My Reverie’ (Debussy), ‘Baubles, Bangles and Beads’ (Borodin), Souter pens wonderful new lyrics for the remaining nine songs and the results are unquestionably fine. Souter’s lustrous timbre works its magic from the scene-setting opener ‘Prelude to the Sun’, based on the second movement of Beethoven’s Symphony No.7. Other stellar treats include ‘Dance With Me’ (from Borodin’s ‘Polovtsian Dances’), a remarkable take on Albinoni’s ‘Adagio’ (‘Chiaroscuro’), plus a beautiful reimagining of Rodrigo’s ‘En Aranjuez Con Tu Amor’, which every Miles fan knows well. Best of all is ‘The Darkness Of Your Eyes’ (based on Fauré’s ‘Pavane’), topped off by an outstanding solo from Joel Frahm on soprano. The rest of the supporting cast includes the Steve Kuhn trio and vibist Joe Locke, whose fluid soloing and deft textural touches add immeasurably to the album’s understated lyrical power.

– Peter Quinn