The career of Lois Bruno has dwelt in the musical shadows for much too long. Miss Bruno has appeared with such artistic giants as George Cables, Billy Cobham and Bill Mobley and listening to her breathtaking debut on And So It Begins I can only marvel what would have been had she made her own recordings many years ago. But perhaps it’s just as well things turned out this way, because her voice may have ripened and evolved to what it is today because of the dues she’s paid. At any rate, it’s hardly likely that you will as – as I am – beguiled by her maturity majesty as an interpreter of song.
Miss Lois has a natural suppleness to her voice. The occasional crackle is alternates with a ghostly tremolo and this combined with her gilt-edged tone gives her a tremendous vocal armoury which she uses this with beautifully devastating effect. She can drench a song in tears when the narrative demands it and this she shows off in “When Sunny Gets Blue” and (of course) in “Cry Me a River”. But her true power is best described in the tensile beauty of “Love for Sale”. This is a song where her maturity enables her to inhabit the song with magisterial effect. Miss Bruno speeds up the tempo of the song so that she sings it a lot faster than many versions since it was first written, but because of her ability to tear through every gestural façade she is able to imbue it with a rare and powerful pathos so that it becomes a truly cathartic experience. And just when you think that things couldn’t get any deeper than that she pours it all into “Bewitched, Bothered and Bewildered”. Her treatment of “Feeling Good” is also truly majestic.
Hers is a style of vocalastics that is old-fashioned, where she allows songs to speak – and to whisper – their secrets in her ear. Then stripping them of every possible posture, Miss Lois reveals these secrets as if she has discovered the songs’ singular Holy Grails. This is not simply a gift, but it is it takes great musical intuitiveness and genius to fond this in song after song. It makes you wonder if these songs – each and every one of them – were written expressly for her. This is what the great Abbey Lincoln – that sublime, one-in-a-lifetime storyteller brought to song. Or what Sheila Jordan brings to song albeit in another (bebop) vein. And what the great Nancy King does (if only she would song more). This makes what Miss Bruno does here absolutely inimitable. Listen to ”Always On My Mind”. It’s simply heart-stopping – just as every single song on this album is.
The group that accompanies Miss Lois on this recording – everyone from pianist Mike Eckroth and saxophonist Kenny Shanker, to bassist Yoshi Waki and drummer Brian Fishler – seems so fully attuned to Miss Bruno’s great artistry that it’s also hard to imagine anyone else accompanying her on this epic maiden voyage.
Track list – 1: When Sunny Gets Blue; 2: Love for Sale; 3: Bewitched, Bothered and Bewildered; 4: That Old Black Magic; 5: Always On My Mind; 6: But Beautiful; 7: Feeling Good; 8: My Romance; 9: Over the Rainbow; 10: Cry Me a River; 11: Somewhere
Personnel – Lois Bruno: vocals; Kenny Shanker: saxophone; Mike Eckroth: piano; Yoshi Waki: bass; Brian Fishler: drums
Released – 2019
Label – Wise Cat Records
Runtime – 44:37