Peter Bernstein has gone on record as saying that “Zoe Francis is an amazing singer with a great sound and impeccable taste”, and I for one would not disagree with that assessment of this lovely album.
Diving Duck Recordings DDRCD030
Zoe Francis (vocals); Jim Mullen (guitar); Ross Stanley (Hammond organ B3)
Recorded January 2023
Following on from the wonderful Blue Town album released in 2019, Zoe Francis is back with the same stellar band and sounding better than ever. From start to finish, this is a swinging affair and find Zoe reaching new heights.
The material has been carefully chosen representing the legacy of Blue Note Records and on the organ and guitar groups. Unusually once again the music is presented without the services of a drummer, but this in no way detracts from the unstoppable and swinging Jim Mullen and Ross Stanley whose consummate musicianship and almost telepathic understanding of each other’s playing is something quite special.
With such support from Mullen and Stanley, Zoe pulls out all the stops with some superb vocal performances that ensure that this is a trio of equals, and the recording captures every nuance and inflection in her voice.
The three musicians work sympathetically together on swinging readings of ‘Somewhere in the Night’ and ‘When The Sun Comes Out’ with some excellent solos from Mullen and Stanley, and the guitarist commentary to Zoe’s vocal on the latter is a particular highlight.
Having said that the ballads are especially impressive. If Hoagy Carmichael’s ‘Skylark’ is perhaps in danger of becoming over recorded, Zoe’s lovely take here more than justifies another version of the song, however the vocalist keeps a little in reserve and delivers a truly captivating ‘Maybe September’.
The tempo is perfect, the accompaniment never intrusive but supportive allowing Zoe all the time in world to spell out the songs story.
I’ve never been particularly fond of ‘Midnight Sun’ but here Zoe has presented the song in a manner that has made me reconsider my position.
Again, the tempo is just right, and the idea of recording the song as a samba give the tune a brighter disposition than I had previously thought possible.
The delicate and gently lilting performance of ‘Show Me’ is another highlight in an album that cannot fail to delight and has been quickly picking up plaudits.
New York based guitarist Peter Bernstein has gone on record as saying that “Zoe Francis is an amazing singer with a great sound and impeccable taste”, and I for one would not disagree with that assessment of this lovely album.