D'Ranged Review The Guardian 30th July 2014

John Fordham

The Guardian July 31st 2014

Janette Mason, the UK-based session pianist and composer, doesn't play as much jazz as the cognoscenti might like – and this almost entirely vocal set of classic R&B and soul hits keeps her fluent postbop chops even more modestly disguised. But for all her familiarity with the commercial mainstream, Mason can't do anything obvious or unhip, and these covers benefit from three key choices – hiring the superb singers Gwyneth Herbert, David McAlmont, Vula Malinga, Claire Martin and Texan newcomer Tatiana "LadyMay" Mayfield; picking a subtle, jazz-steeped session band; and writing arrangements that sympathetically reinvent the songs. Mayfield soars and swerves over slinky Motown horn hooks and Paul Booth's bluesy soul-sax on Stevie Wonder's I Wish, Bowie's Lady Grinning Soul gets an eerily irresistible treatment from McAlmont's contemporary-Nat-Cole sound, and Ashes to Ashes (This Is Not America) finds Mason in grippingly Bad Plus-like instrumental mode. Claire Martin steers a pristine Blue Moon through a quirkily displaced arrangement, and Gwyneth Herbert flags up what a sophisticated jazz-ballad artist she remains on This House, and You Do Something to Me. It's all beautifully produced, too.

 

John Fordham
Friday 13 May 2005

"Plenty of musicians good enough to choose between high-level pragmatism and art spend their lives in the studios, on sessions and in road bands backing stars. One of the most famous is Michael Brecker, who devoted 17 years or so of his earlier professional life to doing just that. Plenty feel the urge to make a personal statement gnawing at them, but only a few make it work - as indeed Brecker did in 1987, waiting until he was close to middle age to release a fine debut solo album. But when it does work, the chemistry of vast experience, ability to play in many genres, listening skills and one-touch virtuosity can unleash something special.

That's certainly happened in the case of Janette Mason, the British-resident session keyboardist who has worked on Sex and the City, and with Oasis, Pulp, Suzanne Vega and Seal as well as jazzier or quirkier singers such as Robert Wyatt, Claire Martin, Ian Shaw and Lea DeLaria. Mason's breakout album Din and Tonic, entirely featuring the pianist's own compositions - apart from the single vocal, co-written with DeLaria, and Moon River - is a triumph of elegant themes, catchy hooks, fierce swing, classy execution and uncompromising openness to improvisation...." Read the entire review >

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