The Shakespeare Project – Deborah Shulman
Shakespeare set to vocals!…and it is BRILLIANT! The vocals are exquisite and the band is LA-top notch…featuring wonderful treatments from Jeff Colella with:
Deborah Shulman, VOCALS;
Jeff Colella, Piano; Larry Koonse, Guitar; Abraham Laboriel, Chris Colangelo, Bass; Bob Sheppard, Flute, Clarinet, Soprano Saxophone & Bass Clarinet; Kendall Kay, Joe La Barbera, Drums; Bob McChesney, Trombone
From Vocalist Deborah Shulman (from the notes):
In 1987, my friend Lance Roberts directed a staged version of Cleo Laine and John Dankworth’s iconic recording of WORD SONGS. Released in 1978, Laine and Dankworth had previously recorded many of the same songs for SHAKESPEARE AND ALL THAT JAZZ in 1964.
Armed with my strong theatre background (including Shakespeare), I was not so much intimidated by the poetry, but certainly understood the complexities of joining the poetry with the music; the goal, to convey the meaning and essence of the words through the music.
With my 2012 release “Lost in the Stars”, the gifted arranger/composer Jeff Colella worked with me to meld classical music, theatre, and jazz.
This journey has been filed with many blessings; from reconnecting with the great bassist Abraham Laboriel (who, much to my delight, agreed to join this party), to working with our great Los Angeles musicians Larry Koonse (Guitar), Kendall Kay (Drums), Chris Colangelo and Bob Sheppard (Saxophone/Reeds), and Bob McChesney (Trombone).
“When most people think of Shakespeare these days, if at all, they think of Bob DeNiro on Saturday Night Live going ‘yeah, Shakespeare’ while making the jerk off motion. Shulman is no mere art chick going ‘look at me’ as you can tell by the first call jazzbos she got to gather around this fire. Actually following in Cleo Laine’s 1964 footsteps, Shakespeare and all that jazz isn’t all that outré a concept. If you didn’t know Lord Buckley’s fave playwright was the one behind the words here, you wouldn’t get your anti-egghead hat on in approaching it. This is the path to take if you want to step outside the lines and do it with some real style and class. Well done.”
–Midwest Record by Chris Spector
William Shakespeare’s works have generated many musical endeavors. Duke Ellington‘s Such Sweet Thunder (Columbia Records, 1957) and Leonard Bernstein’s score for West Side Story are among those which come to mind. In 1941, British composer Arthur Young recorded Shakespeare in Swing (Decca Records, 1941), which featured his compositions over Shakespeare’s words. And, in 1964, celebrated British reed player John Dankworthand his wife, Cleo Laine, recorded Shakespeare and All that Jazz, (Fontana Records, 1964), a collection predominantly of Dankworth’s jazz tunes with lyrics taken from Shakespeare.
With The Shakespeare Project, vocalist Deborah Shulman not only resurrects and refreshes some of the Young/Dankworth-Lane efforts, but adds some terrific new originals from pianist/co-producer, Jeff Colella.
Starting with a track which combines Dankworth’s “All the World’s a Stage” around the up-tempo “If Music Is the Food of Love,” it is obvious that this is not going to be a novelty or an over-intellectualized effort. The upbeat tone continues with the modal and swinging, “Blow, Blow That Winter Wind,” which features tasty guitar work from Larry Koonse. Dankworth’s “Dunsinane Blues” is an azure head-tilter with Shulman and pianist Collela soulful. The ballad “Shall I Compare Thee to a Summer’s Day” is a textured, dramatic highlight on which Shulman and all shine bright.
A challenge which is met exceptionally well here is Shulman’s vocal approach to the 16th century lyric. Her voice is very attractive and swinging. The manner in which she caresses the lyrics is exceptional.
Dankworth’s “Who Is Sylvia?” is an inquisitive, theatrical Laboriel/Shulman duo. His “You Spotted Snakes” is darker fare with tasty ensemble backing. “When to the Sessions of Sweet Silent Thought,” a Colella original, is an introspective piano/vocal duet. Victor Young’s, “Sigh No More Ladies” is a bossa nova swinger with a fine Bob McChesney trombone solo and “Oh, Mistress Mine” is delivered in a lilting swing-groove with Shulman’s ace piping and another fine McChesney ride. Duke Ellington and Billy Strayhorn‘s “My Love Is a Fever” and the swinging “Take All My Loves” were also recorded by Dankworth and Lane and are given a fine fresh coat here.
Although the lingo served here is near a half-millennium old, Shulman and her team make this rendering as delicious as fresh-baked Elizabethan pie. Go ahead and pull out a plum.
–All About Jazz by Nick Mondello
“In two of her prior albums, vocalist DEBORAH SHULMAN offered up a collection of songs by Bobby Troup, and one that concentrated on material written by Kurt Weill or Stephen Sondheim. The focus of her new album, The Shakespeare Project (Summit – 739) are the songs and sonnets written by William Shakespeare. The inspiration for this compilation comes from a similar project Shakespeare: And All That Jazz recorded in 1964 by Cleo Laine and Johnny Dankworth. For her album, Shulman had instrumental support from Jeff Colella on piano, Abraham Laboriel or Chris Colangelo on bass, Joe La Barbera or Kendall Kay on drums, Larry Koonse on guitar, Bob Sheppard on reeds and Bob McChesney on trombone. The instrumentation varies from track to track. Five of the twelve selections are adaptations of the Dankworth arrangements, two have music by Duke Ellington and Billy Strayhorn, three were set to music by Arthur Young and the other two by Colella. Shulman has the dramatic sensitivity to effectively address this demanding material, and the voice to make it sound right. The arrangements are jazzy, but do not detract from the words of The Bard. This is a fine addition to the small catalog of similar projects, most notably the one by Laine and Dankworth, and one by Maxine Sullivan and Dick Hyman.”
–Jersey Jazz by Joe Lang