The ten works of exceptional quality and variety in no particular order of preference by Cheryl Bentyne, on reArrangements of Shadows display Stephen Sondheim’s special dominion over narrative music and Miss Bentyne’s profoundly incisive mastery over describing his stories in song. Underpinning these telling vocal excursions is an unaffected simplicity of utterance born of pristine inflection, an acute sensitivity and ability to switch moods in a single bar line, with intimacy around the vocalist’s timbre and quicksilver diction. Add to this is the unquestionable fact that Mr. Sondheim’s songs seem to speak to Miss Bentyne in a very special and personal way and you have a certifiable classic.
Arrangements by Kevin Axt, John Beasley, Jamieson Trotter, Bevan Mason and Mark Kibble are exquisite, and the benefit of this scoring, when performed with such sensitivity to lyrics and lightness of texture without ever falling prey to the saccharine trap is remarkable. And you are not likely to find renditions of “The Ladies Who Lunch” – both the one Miss Bentyne shares with “the other ladies”, Janis Siegel and Tierney Sutton – and “Send in the Clowns” that sound so absolutely radiant and freshly minted. That’s not to say that other songs – and I suggest one in particular – “Wish I Could Forget You” are not equally polished and luxuriant.
But to my mind the jewel in the proverbial crown is “Everybody Says Don’t”. This son is simply gloriously sung. It has an air of mystery and the lyric seems to at times, trickle like off Miss Bentyne’s tongue as if they were raw silk. Moreover, John Beasley on piano, Kevin Axt on bass and Dave Tull put Miss Bentyne through her paces in a compendium of technical pyrotechnics and expressive conceits. This could be made for their brilliant vocalist as she traverses the filigree with seasoned panache and always gloriously instinctive textual nuancing.
Meanwhile “Comedy” with its madcap dissonance and “Move On” rendered with a mixture of playful waves and sage advice by the string quartet have the flair and contain communicative reach into the sinews of Mr. Sondheim’s music which is very rare indeed. And, of course, “Send in the Clowns” by Miss Bentyne with Armand Hutton and Mark Kibble assails the mind’s ear with glancing blows of elemental sadness and pinpoint aplomb and is worth the price of this entire exquisite disc, which is one to die for.
Track list – 1: I Remember; 2: Sand; 3: The Ladies Who Lunch; 4: Everybody Says Don’t; 5: Comedy Tonight; 6: Wish I Could Forget You; 7: Not a Day Goes By; 8: Move On; 9: Send in the Clowns; 10: The Ladies Who Lunch
Personnel – Cheryl Bentyne: vocals; John Beasley: piano (1 -3, 7, 10); Bevan Mason: piano (5, 8) and electric piano (8); Tom Zink: piano (6); Kevin Axt: bass (1 – 4, 7, 10); Dave Tull: drums (1 – 4, 7, 10); Tom McCauley: guitar (7), percussion (7) and shaker (9); Roy Wooten: cajón (9); Brad Dutz: percussion (5, 8); John Arrucci: marimba (8); Rafi Rishik and Irina Voloshina: violins (5, 8); Jennie Hansen: viola (5, 8); Armen Ksajikian: cello (5, 8) with guest vocalists: Janis Siegel (3), Tierney Sutton (3), Armand Hutton (9) and Mark Kibble (9)
Released – 2017
Label – artistShare
Runtime – 45:21