Not a single one of the adulatory press reviews can really capture the powerful beauty of the musicianship of Polly Gibbons. The viscerally energetic vocalastics of the English-born phenomenon is a magical mélange of full-throated seduction, pristine articulation and imaginative phrasing all wrapped up in nonpareil musicality. In fact Miss Gibbons conducts herself from the same magisterium that the seminal ancestral inventors of Blues and Jazz once did and for her part when she sings accompanied by Shedrick Mitchell’s Hammond organ she ascends to that same rarefied realm where they all now dwell.
While there is every indication that Miss Gibbons has had a large hand in the repertoire on this album All I Can Do because it simply becomes her so organically, one suspects that producer Georg Klabin provided the master-stroke of bringing her together with these musicians – especially Mr Mitchell, with whom Miss Gibbons “takes us to church” and equally “to the jook-joint” with perfectly-dirty beauty. Mr Klabin’s genius has been in evidence over a very long period of time, but his last two albums – Heart of Brasil by Eddie Daniels (Resonance Records, 2018) and now All I Can Do – proves that in addition to his audio engineering wizardry, Mr Klabin is possessed of a genius for putting the right repertoire in the hands of an artist supremely qualified to execute it, which also includes finding the best musicians (literally) to accompany – in this case – Miss Gibbons.
But this is a recording where Miss Gibbons is the star and clearly the musicians will go to the ends of the earth to give her what her unique vision and artistry demands. She makes each song on this album her own as she finds the most elemental connection not only with story, but also with the most deeply-felt emotion with which each character in each of the song reaches out. And thus she brings each one alive in a singular manner just as – for instance someone like Whitney Houston took charge of Dolly Parton’s :I Will Always Love You” or what Sinéad O’Connor did for Prince’s “Nothing Compares 2 U” (Miss Gibbons’ version is a patented masterpiece). For her part Miss Gibbons does likewise with “Some of My Best Friends Are the Blues” that had its earlier benchmark performance by Della Reece, or how she delivers on the promise with a towering soulful performance of “Everything Music Change”, once the declared real estate of George Benson.
However, it isn’t just with fare that is rooted in the Blues and in soaring spiritual fare; Miss Gibbons also proves that she can swing and have momentous fun with unfettered swing ringing the changes with majestic command as on Horace Silver’s “Permit Me to Introduce You to Yourself” . Later she rings in the proverbial changes once again on Duke Ellington’s classic “I’m Just a Lucky So and So” and even invents a Jazz original herself with pianist James Pearson on “”If You Had the Chance” and on “All I Can Do”. On those and throughout the album really Miss Gibbons’ instrument is gorgeous: lustrous, precise and magically raspy. Her musicianship is fierce and she digs into the expression of each word, brings ceaseless variety to soft dynamics and gives each phrase grace. Her accompaniment – in addition to Mr Mitchell – brings a deeply interiorised reading of the music that complements Miss Gibbons’ execution.
Clearly this is the kind of artistry that makes this music say something entirely new. By any means that’s great music-making.
Track list – 1: Permit Me to Introduce You to Yourself; 2: Good Hands Tonight; 3: Beautiful Things; 4: If You Had the Chance; 5: Some of My Best Friends Are the Blues; 6: Anything Goes; 7: This Is Always; 8: All I Can Do; 9: Everything Must Change; 10: I’m Just a Lucky so and So; 11: Nothing Compares to You; 12: Sugar in My Bowl
Personnel – Polly Gibbons: vocals; Tamir Handelman: piano (1, 2, 5, 7, 12); James Pearson: piano (3, 4, 6, 8 – 11); Shedrick Mitchell: Hammond organ; Paul Bollenbeck: guitar; Richie Goods: bass; Mark Mclean: drums
Released – 2019
Label – Resonance Records (RCD1028)
Runtime – 1:08:46