Cheryl Barnes - Listen to This

Cheryl Barnes
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Cheryl Barnes titled her new CD of jazz standards Listen to This, and that title carries with it more than a little hint of self-awareness. There is a temptation to tune out these reinterpretations of the Great American Songbook, mainly because some artists treat us to the same tunes over and over and over again. Cheryl Barnes track list shows that she’s serious about wanting people to listen. The record sports a nice balance of tunes known to fans of the songbook while not being overdone. She features a Joni Mitchell pop tune that is repurposed in the jazz idiom, as well as a song that Glen Ballard wrote for the Quincy Jones produced Give Me the Night album.

Cheryl Barnes titled her new CD of jazz standards Listen to This, and that title carries with it more than a little hint of self-awareness. There is a temptation to tune out these reinterpretations of the Great American Songbook, mainly because some artists treat us to the same tunes over and over and over again. Cheryl Barnes track list shows that she’s serious about wanting people to listen. The record sports a nice balance of tunes known to fans of the songbook while not being overdone. She features a Joni Mitchell pop tune that is repurposed in the jazz idiom, as well as a song that Glen Ballard wrote for the Quincy Jones produced Give Me the Night album.

The album also includes an original – the title track – that was written by Barnes’ husband, and Barnes gives some much needed shine to the current generation of lyricists and composers working to created new additions to the songbook. Barnes includes two tunes by Mark Winkler on Listen To This. One is the lovely “That Afternoon in Harlem,” a track perfectly suited for Barnes because she is a great storyteller and Winkler’s tune tells a great story. “That Afternoon in Harlem” tells the story of a young singer’s visit to the Harlem apartment of an aging jazz singer. The arrangement sports a bluesy swing that sets the stage for a tale of two artists bridging the generation gap. Winkler takes a photograph with his lyrics and Barnes’ voice adds the color.

Barnes combines her jazz-tinged vocals that feature stretched notes and moving in front and behind the melody with a jazz/funk arrangement on Ballard’s “What’s On Your Mind.” She transforms Mitchell’s “Come in from the Cold” into a jazz ballad. Barnes plays it straight on Michael Leonard and Herbert Martin’s standard “Why Did I Choose You,” which is good because that allows her to wring every ounce of passion and sentimentality out of those golden anniversary lyrics.

Barnes is one of those music lifers who you probably heard sing on somebody else’s project and who performed in genres ranging form classical (she’s classically trained) to R&B. However, her first love has long been jazz going back to her days growing up in Cleveland. That love comes through on this quality album of originals and covers. Barnes traveled from Cleveland to Montana to Denver before ending up in LA. Listen to This proves that Barnes is right at home whenever she sings jazz. Recommended.

By Howard Dukes

 
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