© -Steven Cerra, copyright protected; all rights reserved.
Over the course of her, as yet, relatively modest career, Monica has managed to develop the vocal skills and faculties that allow her to produce work that helps her listeners gain a better understanding of the Great American Songbook music, despite the fact that we’ve all heard most of the tunes she sings many times before.
There is a maturity in Monica’s rendering of a song that compliments her choice of material in her latest CD Some Enchanted Evening which includes tunes from some legendary Broadway shows as written by Frank Loesser, Irving Berlin, Lerner and Loewe, Rodgers and Hammerstein and George and Ira Gershwin.
In other words, she measures up to the immense talents of those who wrote the songs she sings. She sings the lyrics with a respectful restraint instead of an emotional fawning; there is no exaggerated flattery or obsequiousness.
I suspect that some of these attributes in her growth and development have come from her long association with pianist Beegie Adair, an experienced and gifted musician, who works with Monica effortlessly, never pushing or leading, but always accompanying, suggesting and gently guiding.
Monica’s latest CD offer new exploration of an art that originated in a time when to say “good popular music” was not an oxymoron.
Some Enchanted Evening is subtitled piano and vocal music from My Fair Lady, The King and I, South Pacific, Kiss Me, Kate, Oklahoma!, Guys and Dolls, Carousel and more.
The voice-piano contrast of hearing the songs out of the context of their original and extravagant orchestral productions is as striking as it is satisfying.
What happens to these tunes in the quieter environment that Monica and Beegie have created is that they become more expressive and accessible.
The lights, sets, movements, orchestra in the pit, acting, dancing and gestures that usually surround these songs when they are performed on the big stage by a large Broadway show company are replaced by the intimacy of the piano lounge which finds Monica seated at or near Beegie on the piano bench singing to “you.”
As a result, you hear these lyrics in a new way, almost, perhaps as the composer and lyricist heard them when they were first inventing them.
Monica and Beegie create an intimacy that helps give new interpretations to the likes of They Say It’s Wonderful, C’est Magnifique, Someone to Watch Over Me and nine other Broadway show selections some of which have become “chestnuts” over the years [piece of music in the repertoire that has grown stale or hackneyed with too much repetition].
Another great benefit from the subsiding of the fanfare usually associated with these songs is that the piano-vocal setting allows us to hear the musicianship of Monica and Beegie; how they go about their business in making the music be it in their choice of tempo or key or rhythm. The duo framework is as simple as it gets and if you are not up to it there’s nowhere to hide. But when it clicks, it is as direct a connection as you get between the music and the musicians.
Louis Armstrong was fond of saying the “Jazz is who you are.” Implicit in this statement is that the music is an honest representation of the people making it.
If you want to know who Monica Ramey and Beegie Adair are, just listen to Some Enchanted Evening. They are all there and the music that they make together is wonderful … er … S’Wonderful.
Order information is available at www.greenhillmusic.com
And you can preview all the songs on this CD via this link.