The sound is pristine, as are Stacey’s vocals, and the songs all sound remarkably clean-limbed and fresh.

Naïve BLV 8224

Stacey Kent (vocals); Jim Tomlinson (tenor saxophone, flute, alto flute, clarinet, guitar, percussion (keyboards); Art Hirahara, Graham Harvey (piano); Tom Hubbard, Jeremy Brown (double bass); Anthony Pinciotti, Joshua Morrison (drums); Aurélie Chenille (first violin); Claire Chabert (second violin); Fabrice Planchat (viola); Gabriel Planchet (cello)

Recorded 6 May, 2 August & 12 December 2019

“So, when is a request album not a request album? According to Stacey, it’s simply when a collection of songs that have been regulars in live performances and have yet to appear on one of her albums. In fairness, Kent has been singing standards in her own inimitable way for many years, and there must be hundreds of songs she has performed live and not recorded.

Still, as the vocalist says, someone will always ask which album a particular song they like is on. So, not a requested album but a nice idea on which to hang this current collection.

Recorded over three sessions in 2019 in England and New York, this is not a casual blowing session but a carefully crafted and superbly produced collection of songs.

In taking time in this way to record the eleven songs on the album, Jim Tomlinson has done an artful job in creating arrangements that offer something new in the way the songs are presented, and, of course, managed this in a way that perfectly frames Stacey’s voice.

What is most pleasing about the finished album is that there is no indication of the temptation to overdo the production. The sound is pristine, as are Stacey’s vocals, and the songs all sound remarkably clean-limbed and fresh. The title track is a lovely tune, and Jim Tomlinson’s flute is the perfect foil for the vocals, and there is also a lovely solo from pianist Art Hirahara.

Kicking off with such a strong number means that you have the task of maintaining the high standard set, and Tomlinson and Kent do admirably. Not a weak track on the album; the quality is uniform from beginning to end.

Among the familiar standards are three originals penned by Jim Tomlinson and lyrics written by Kazuo Ishiguro: the lovely ‘Postcard Lovers’ that originally featured on the live album, ‘Dreamer in Concert’.

Feeling that the original was lacking something, Tomlinson has, at Stacey’s suggestion, rearranged it in ¾, which gives the version here an appropriately whimsical feeling that enhances the lyrics.

Two further originals have lyrics by Cliff Goldmacher, with an enchanting ballad in ‘A Song That Isn’t Finished Yet’ and ‘Thinking About the Rain’ that features more of that wonderful voice and flute combination.

Such is the finesse in Tomlinson’s writing and the lyrics from both Goldmacher and Ishiguro that they quite rightly take pride of place alongside the standards.

Another first for Stacey is recording the same song twice on an album. Jacques Brel’s ‘Ne me quitte pas’ is such a beautiful song that why shouldn’t it be sung in the original French and also as ‘If You Go Away’ with the English lyrics by Rod McKuen? In my opinion, when the resulting music is as good as this, then bring it on.

In recent years, I have lost touch with Stacey’s work, and I am most grateful to have the opportunity to reacquaint myself with her music in this lovely recording that has not strayed far from my CD player since arriving for review.