Home is a safe haven, a warm and comfortable place where one feels welcome, secure and at ease. Shirley Crabbe’s Home is a perfect example of how this feeling of home transfers to music with a rare quality of making that inner connection with a song ultimately going from vocalist to story teller with a soulful resonant tone that envelops the listener. Crabbe does not sing the words, she makes the music.
There is a delightful swing and effervescent quality that shows up on “You Taught My Heart to Sing” where pianist Donald Vega is the perfect accompanist. Crabbe who was mentored by the fabulous Etta Jones is joined on the Oscar Brown Jr. penned tune “Strong Man” as well as “Lucky To Be Me” by tenor saxophone great Houston Person whose association with Jones and the great vocalist Ernestine Anderson goes back a good quarter century and this is one of the keys to this release. There is an infectious ebb and flow that plays to Crabbe’s vocal strengths with solid arrangements on compositions that run the musical gamete from George Gershwin to Carol King as well as the music of McCoy Tyner and Sir Roland Hanna.
Sometimes the back-story to a release can be as compelling as the work itself with Shirley Crabbe coming back from a vocal injury that would have permanently sidelined a lesser person not to mention someone with a promising singing career as is the case here. Crabbe holds nothing back as she announces her artistic presence with the authority and confidence of a seasoned veteran.
Arrangements such as the Carol King smash “Your So Far Away” with a somewhat eclectic spin give Home a special depth and texture that when taken in context with the entire release simply adds to a virtually flawless effort. “Summertime” which closes the release may be the strongest tune in the offering. A more contemporary arrangement has the pianist Donald Vega treading dangerously close to the avant-garde cliff with his solo without pushing the listener over the edge. Crabbe’s phrasing, inflection and harmonic sense allow her to work magic with an iconic tune that has arguably been done to death and make it her own.
This is an adventurous, contemporary and swinging release that should satisfy the most discriminating of vocal jazz lovers. Making old school new cool, Shirley Crabbe is a name to remember.
Key Tracks: You Taught My Heart to Sing, Strong Man, and Summertime
Brent Black – Muzikreview.com Contributor
October 30, 2011