Review: Deborah Pearl - Souvenir of You
Putting lyrics to instrumental classics is the type of stuff that doesn’t always work out. In the case of Deborah Pearl’s Souvenir of You, however, magic happens.
Pearl, a singer/playright/screenwriter/songwriter, has constructed Souvenir of You as a loving spotlight on Benny Carter.
Through her friendship with the late bandleader/composer/arranger,
Pearl was able to transform his pieces into refreshing new sounds worth
many a groove and smile. Her work with Benny’s widow Hilma has made Souvenir an even deeper, even warmer recording that becomes every bit the labour of love it’s advertised as.
The record opens with the big fat swing of “Happy Feet (At the
Savoy).” Pearl sings her lyrics over a recording of Carter and his Big
Band playing along with the Rutgers University Orchestra. Interestingly,
Pearl’s trio hops in on the tune and transforms it into an all-star
trade-off session. Pianist Lou Forestieri, bassist Kenny Wild and
drummer Jimmy Branly meld with Carter’s Big Band seamlessly and the
technical wizardry at the core of the union goes off without a hitch.
“Wonderland (Isle of Love)” becomes an ode to the love shared by
Hilma and Benny Carter, while “Doozy Blues” perhaps updates the concept
with the addition of cell phones and a series of Pearl’s clever couplets
about ringtones and text messages. Fun stuff.
Pearl’s talent for writing is unquestionable, but her vocals are
on-point as well. Having received accolades from Carter for her work on
her one-woman show Chick Singers, in which she played as eight
different “chick singers,” Pearl’s knack for hopping in with a little
experimental scat singing or some fun runs is well-studied indeed.
Whether she’s singing songs about grief (“An Elegy in Blue”) or when
“love puts wings on your shoes” (“Sky Dance for Two”), Pearl’s command
of the many subjects of life is clear. Not only does she evince a
passion for the work of the one and only Benny Carter, but she shows
herself as truly illuminated by the human experience.
These songs of love, life and loss are warm soulful in all the right
places, creating faultless matches for Carter’s stellar compositions,
creating an album that is, most assuredly, a "souvenir" of one
remarkable musician and a showcase of another.
Posted on Wednesday, August 3, 2011, by Jordan Richardson
A Fresh New Take on the Songs of Benny Carter
, April 9, 2011
Deborah Pearl is a class act. Not only does she have a fresh incandescent voice well suited to the idiom of jazz, but she is also a creator of lyrics and a thorough going musician - fine instincts, great taste, and a true sense of style. In this creative recording she celebrates the life and music of Benny Carter: '(August 8, 1907 - July 12, 2003) an American jazz alto saxophonist, clarinetist, trumpeter, composer, arranger, and bandleader. He was a major figure in jazz from the 1930s to the 1990s, and was recognized as such by other jazz musicians who called him King. In 1958, he performed with Billie Holiday at the legendary Monterey Jazz Festival.' In this unique recording Deborah Pearl adds her own lyrics to Carter's repertoire and the results are magic!
Much in the manner of the Coles (Nat King and Natalie) there are a couple of "duets" here - 'Happy Feet (At the Savoy)' and 'Anniversary Dance (Song of Long Ago)' in which Pearl has remixed (with the aid of Jimmy Branly) actual sounds from Carter's Big Band with her own singing of her own lyrics. On other bands Pearl offers her beautiful voice as a crooner ('Again and Again (I Try to Pretend)" and 'People Time' - a meltingly beautiful voice with some sensitive poetic lyrics. Then there are the upbeat sounds peppering the collection. Her collaborators on this album are Lou Forestieri, keyboards, Chris Colangelo and Kenny Wild, Bass, Dave Karasony and Jimmy Branley, drums. And of course here and there is the alto sax of Benny Carter himself.
This recording introduces a bright new start in Deborah Pearl and a new audience for the genius of the late great Benny Carter. This is a hands down winner!
- Grady Harp , Amazon
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Thank you for the wonderful CD of the King and Thou's magnificent collaboration. There are happy feet in Heaven and soon the whole world will be kicking up it's heels in sheer delight at this great music. And by the way, you can sing your ass off Baby! - PHIL WOODS, jazz sax giant
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"One of the best tributes to Benny thus far... She sings as good as the best of them... it could not have been better!" - Ira Nepus, trombonist (former member of Benny Carter Big Band)
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CD Review: www.midwestrecord.com
DEBORAH PEARL/Souvenir of You: Well, God love ya, Ms. Pearl. Benny Carter’s memory has been left on the roadside to linger forgotten since he died in 2003, but Pearl, a long time friend that originally wanted to be a jazz singer until she got diverted by success as a screen writer, got together with Carter’s widow for what’s certainly an estate sanctioned recording. And then, on top of that, Pearl writes new lyrics to Carter’s old melodies and even gets to sing with him, a la Natalie Cole, on some dusted off live tracks. Benny is smiling right now! Don’t waste time figuring out if it’s jazz or cabaret or adult contemporary. It’s freaking cool is what it is. A great tribute set that works in whole new ways, Carter fans should come out of the woodwork and rejoice.
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Souvenir Of You, Deborah Pearl, vocals.
You gotta give Pearl some kudos for putting literate lyrics to the life-affirming melodies of that most versatile of jazz heroes, Benny Carter. The bonus here is that Pearl is a hip singer, and she and a solid trio make it all work on 13 of Benny's sterling songs. A few that you'll know include "Wonderland," "An Elegy in Blue" and "Souvenir (Of You)." Benny Carter wrote melodies often so serene and perfect that it makes sense that lyrics should have been applied. Now Pearl has done that. Thank you, and long live the very special music of Benny Carter.
Review By George Fendel
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June 14, 2011
Deborah Pearl - Souvenir Of You 4/3
O's Notes: Deborah Pearl is a fine jazz singer with a wide alto range. She sings in very natural tones in a way that is very appealing. Pearl was encouraged and inspired by the late Benny Carter and his wife Hilma. She delights us with "Wonderland", "Doozy Blues" and the ultra cool "Scattin' Back to Harlem" with Chris Colangelo walking his bass along beside her. Pearl sings in front of the legendary Benny Carter (sax) with his big band on two tracks notably "Happy Feet". This posthumous experience is made capable with digital technology and cooperation from MusicMasters Jazz. The rest of the performance is as a quartet with Colangelo, Dave Karasony and pianist/coproducer Lou Forestieri. There is love in the air and a fitting dose of gratitude for Benny.
D. Oscar Groomes
O's Place Jazz Magazine
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LIT FEST MAGAZINE - Music Review
Souvenir of You – New Lyrics to Benny Carter Classics is a posthumous collaboration of wonderful jazz tunes written by the late great Benny Carter and his close friend Deborah Pearl. With the permission and support of Hilma Carter (Benny’s widow), and advice from Ed Berger, Benny's biographer and discographer, Pearl brought these beautiful songs back into the forefront by giving them awe-inspiring, story-telling lyrics. Benny Carter, a jazz legend whose career spanned a staggering eight decades, was an innovator and trailblazer as a composer, arranger, bandleader, sax, clarinet AND trumpet soloist. He died in 2003 but will live on through his music – with these new songs now available to modern jazz singers and their audiences.
Most of the lyrics were inspired by the remarkable love story of Benny and his beloved Hilma. They met in 1939 at the Savoy Ballroom in Harlem where Benny’s Big Band was playing and fell madly in love at first sight. Because interracial marriages were actually illegal at that time, they eventually went their separate ways and married others. They reunited 30 years later when, in 1975, Hilma had read a review of a Benny Carter concert at Carnegie Hall and wrote to the reviewer, Nat Hentoff, asking that he pass along her letter to Benny. He did - and the rest is history. They were reunited and married in 1980.
Pearl’s often poetic lyrics are brought to life by the many colors and warmth of her voice. She has been a jingle singer and backup singer for artists such as Linda Ronstadt, E. Yazawa, Oasis, Neil Young, and many more. Pearl eventually became a writer - of plays, screenplays, spending nine years as a tv writer on numerous sit coms, most notably Designing Women. In addition, she wrote and performed her critically acclaimed one woman show, Chick Singers. Writing lyrics is Pearl’s most recent passion and she brings to the table all of her story-telling talent. Each song is filled with emotional nuances – the pain and yearning of love lost, and the exultation of love found – it’s a joyous and moving listen.
To hear Deborah perform these remarkable new Benny Carter songs, please join her at Vitello's Italian Restaurant, (Upstairs at Vitellos) 4349 Tujunga Avenue, Studio City, CA 91604 on June 24, 2011, at 8 pm for her CD release show. Tickets are $15. To make a reservation please call (818) 769-0905 . To purchase her CD and find out more about Deborah visit her website www.deborahpearl.com It’s also available on CD Baby, iTunes, and Amazon. - Therese Barron
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Deborah Pearl – Souvenir of You – Evening Star ES115, 58:53
(Deborah Pearl – vocals; Lou Forestieri – piano and keyboards; Chris Colangelo, Kenny Wild – acoustic bass; Dave Karasony, Jimmy Branly – drums; Benny Carter – alto sax accompanied by his big band with the Rutgers University Orchestra)
Deborah Pearl is a bright talent in the entertainment world. Her many accomplishments are as a singer, writer, and lyricist. She was a comedy writer for almost a decade with her most notable work being for the TV show “Designing Women”. She has been a backup singer for Linda Ronstadt, E Yazawa, Oasis, Neil Young and others. She is a professional singer and recording artist with London Records. She wrote and performed a critically-acclaimed one woman musical called “Chick Singers”, performing as six different women singers singing blues, opera, jazz, pop and country who all rise and fall by the love and power of music. She was encouraged by Benny Carter that she could be a jazz singer with her voice and range. After reading a bit about what I could learn of Ms. Pearl, and listening to her album, I understood the significance of her talents at being so convincing as a singer and lyricist on this album. Deborah through friendship with Benny Carter and his wife Hilma had much contact with Benny’s music. Hilma Carter some years after Benny’s passing (almost 8 years ago) contacted Deborah to evaluate some lyrics sent to her by another for Benny’s music. Deborah became inspired and with Hilma Carter’s encouragement set about writing lyrics for Benny’s songs on her project Souvenir of You. It is an album of tribute to the love and story of Benny and Hilma Carter.
Souvenir of You is a blending of songs of Benny Carter with lyrics added and sung by lyricist Deborah Pearl and a tribute to that great artist and the love he and his wife Hilma shared through the years. It had a high impact on my listening pleasure. Deborah Pearl has been touted as having a good jazz voice. I just love understatements. She has a wonderful alto voice with a very large range that amazed me. After hearing the complete album listening to Benny Carter’s compositions and hearing and reading the lyrics Pearl wrote, color me totally satisfied, and this is her debut album! She sings the music and lyrics with an appealing naturalness. She has real ability at interpreting jazz and ballad style singing even including a little scattin’.
“Happy Feet” (At the Savoy) is a remix with Deborah recording with a live recorded track from Benny Carter and his Big Band with the Rutgers University Orchestra which is similar to the Nat King Cole / Natalie Cole recording remix “Unforgettable” from a couple decades ago. It is indicated that this rendering was reminiscent of the dancing at the legendary Harlem Ballroom where Benny Carter first met his future wife Hilma in 1939. Deborah and her trio of Lou Forestieri on piano, Kenny Wild on bass, and Jimmy Branly on drums blend in well with Benny and the Big Band. “Happy Feet” definitely comes off giving us a good measure of happiness.
“People Time” is a Benny Carter song that has been covered by so many great musicians such as Stan Getz, Phil Woods, J. J. Johnson, Joe Wilder and Roberta Gambarini with Hank Jones. Deborah Pearl has added lyrics that are emotional and inspiring of the unrequited love of the Carters over 3 decades of separation and coming together again. It was a very heartfelt song for me. I had always enjoyed the instrumental version, but this with words really enhances what was in their hearts.
“Doozy Blues” is a fun tune with some great jazz singing by Ms Pearl with the trio. It is a toe tapper and swings with sort of that Annie Ross style including some easy moving scattin’. The song seems dedicated to the new cellphone/texting era with these lyrics. “Sunday Morning Comes” has that slow ballad style sound that fits a lazy Sunday as Ms. Pearl describes a break from work and breakfast in bed. Putting worries behind and spending time with your significant other. Good stuff!
“Scattin’ Back to Harlem (aka Sugar Hill Slow Drag),” is a cool, walkin’ song with that great bass line walking you along. Ms. Pearl gives us great lyrics; slow swinging singing with scat thrown in the mix. “Again and Again (I Try to Pretend),” is a soulful torch song crooned by Ms. Pearl. She is the melody line singing this statement of longing to “hold you again”.
“Anniversary Dance (Song of Long Ago)” is another remix of Benny Carter and his Big Band with the Rutgers University Orchestra with Ms. Pearl on vocals. It is a very meaningful song in waltz time with Benny Carter joining in a sax solo. Later in the album is a bluesy tune called “An Elegy in Blue” written by Benny Carter to memorialize the passing of Benny’s friend from Japan, Dr. Kiyoshi Makita. The beautiful blues song is exquisite with Ms. Pearl’s lyrics added.
“Souvenir of You” is the final track of the album and is a tribute written by Benny Carter when he heard of the passing of famed saxophonist of the Ellington Era, Johnny Hodges. As I listened to the melody it sounded that mournful ballad style reminiscent of Johnny Hodges. Deborah Pearl has aptly added great lyrics to make this the ending of the album. The partial lyrics “Time takes our verses away/ But melodies live on/ Forever playing your song/ At heaven’s door/ And here, a souvenir of you” are so profound in my opinion.
Souvenir of You is a wonderful mix of melodies that are full of joy, some blues, and even a samba. There is a surprise in every track of this exquisite, joyous and sometimes heart rending project. The sound quality is excellent and clear. The liner notes contain the lyrics of all 13 tracks and an explanation of the project as well as a mention of Deborah Pearl's feelings for the Carters. This is a debut album for Deborah Pearl and it is top class.
TrackList: Happy Feet (At The Savoy); Wonderland (Isle of Love); People Time (Forever Mine); Doozy Blues; Sunday Morning Comes; Scattin’ Back To Harlem; Again and Again (I Try to Pretend); Anniversary Dance; Johnny True; Sail Away With Me; An Elegy in Blue; Sky Dance for Two; Souvenir of You.
-- Tim Taylor
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She's got a lot of spirit... a crowdpleaser. Lovely album inside and out.
- Jim Gavin, author
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Jazz Promo Services - PRESS RELEASE
Deborah Pearl -- Souvenir Of You - New Lyrics to Benny Carter Classics
Evening Star ES115
Online release Date April 4, 2011
Street Date June 1, 2011
"Souvenir Of You - New Lyrics to Benny Carter Classics", the debut release from multitalented vocalist/lyricist Deborah Pearl is a remarkable musical memento that’s been two lifetimes in the making! The brilliant instrumental melodies of multiple Grammy-winning jazz legend Benny Carter have been given voice through the lyrics and singing of Ms. Pearl, whose deep friendship with Carter and his beloved wife Hilma served as inspiration to this truly wondrous work. Pearl hopes this recording, a real labor of love, will bring to today’s jazz singers and their audiences the musical genius of this bandleader, composer/arranger, saxophone and trumpet soloist, whose artistry created a template for the Swing Era and beyond, in a career that spanned a staggering eight decades. Ms. Pearl, a talent with abilities nearly as broad as Mr. Carter’s himself, finally brings her long recognized excellence as a singer into the spotlight, having been diverted by her success as a tv and screenwriter (Designing Women, Waiting For Yvette) and playwright (Incomplete Strangers, About Sex). The result is a refreshing new sound that is simultaneously novel and mature, filled with artistry, wisdom and wonder.
As a child, Pearl loved to perform by lip-syncing to jazz great Dakota Staton. Her youthful turn in pop, club and jingle singing - jazzing and blusing it up - all prepared her for this project. Carter himself told Pearl that “she could be a jazz singer” and “has a phenomenal range” more than a decade ago after attending her critically acclaimed one-woman show, Chick Singers, in which she portrayed eight different female vocalists, from classical and country western to jazz and blues. Reviewers agreed, from Backstage West ”superbly written and performed” to “Pearl could have a career just as an accomplished jazz singer.” to LA Weekly’s “blessed with a wonderful alto voice” to LA Times’ “Pearl saves the best for last, performing songs as herself.”
Two years ago, Carter’s widow asked Pearl to evaluate an unsolicited lyric sent to her for Benny’s beautiful “People Time.” That neither was impressed was fortuitous - they decided Pearl would put her writing skills to work on the composer’s music. In the words of Carter’s biographer, Ed Berger (whose encyclopedic knowledge of all things Benny Carter gave Pearl much insight), “Deborah Pearl's longtime friendship with Benny and Hilma Carter has given her a deep appreciation of Benny Carter, the man, and special insights into his music. She is the ideal person to put lyrics to these quintessential Carter melodic masterpieces and to perform them with the sensitivity and understanding they deserve.” As you’re about to hear…
The cd gets off to a swinging start with the great Carter himself, LIVE!, leading his Big Band and the Rutgers University Orchestra on “Happy Feet” from his MusicMasters Harlem Renaissance recording (available at the Musical Heritage Society). Pearl jumps in singing her hip lyric “Happy Feet (At The Savoy),” a nod to the amazing dancing at the legendary Harlem Ballroom (where Benny first met Hilma back in 1939). From there the vocalist and her trio -- pianist Lou Forestieri, bassist Kenny Wild and drummer Jimmy Branly – mesh seamlessly with Carter and the orchestra, trading off instrumental and vocal sections. Pearl opens with “Dancin’ to the beat that’s on the street/Kickin’ to the beat with happy feet,” later rhythmically fulfilling Carter’s prophetic vision of her abilities as a jazz singer with a scorching scat chorus, followed by Carter’s own solo with the orchestra with Pearl doubling the altoist’s line on the final chorus, followed by Forestieri’s piano solo that returns the trio to backing the singer before she takes things out with the full orchestra.
Pearl’s imaginative words to Carter’s joyously lilting melody “Wonderland (Isle Of Love),” finds her full bodied voice conjuring images of the composer’s first meeting with Hilma and the exhilaration of love at first sight. Her ability to craft a vivid story to a nimble melody shines here as she sings “What a stumble/Happy tumbling in love with you/You’re a wonder/And a spell that I fell under too/Every time I lose a mile/Think of you and I’m beguiled/Fate has finally forced my hand/Stranded me in wonderland.”
Carter’s popular “People Time” (previously recorded by Stan Getz, Phil Woods, J. J. Johnson, Joe Wilder, and Roberta Gambarini with Hank Jones) is finally given the words its beautiful melody has so long cried for. Pearl’s warm, rich vocal enhances the emotional rendering of her lyric, which speaks to the Carters’ private unrequited love that endured through three decades between falling in love and their eventual marriage. First recorded beautifully by Grace Kelly with Phil Woods on their new Man With A Hat cd, it’s both melancholy and joyous, with lyrics Kelly calls “beautiful, philosophical, and deep,” telling a satisfying story of the timeless exultation of love.
“Doozy Blues” is a witty account of love and cell phones in the 21st Century, with Pearl rocking clever lines like “I’ll make your passion ring ding-a-ling/A swingin’ ringtone that your heart can sing” and “Pick up your text and text me the rest.” Reminiscent of Annie Ross’ ”Twisted,” another melody written for horns sung with speed and dexterity, this tune is sure to be a crowd pleaser - and hopefully a ringtone!
Pearl’s “Sunday Morning Comes,” a second selection from Carter’s Harlem Renaissance, (her days as a Barnard College coed were spent a subway stop away), is about love’s ability to get us through anything. She dismisses life’s challenges with, “Don’t care what a new day may bring/As long as I’ve got one single thing/My one day break from time/Work and all the grind/Sunday morning comes/Easing my weary mind,” ending romantically with “Sunday morning comes whenever I’m with you.”
“Scattin’ Back To Harlem (aka Sugar Hill Slow Drag),” also from the Harlem Renaissance suite is a bluesy outing with Pearl’s words speaking of music’s power to unite people in a universal “cool state of mind” that’s uniquely jazz. A power, she says, that’s in us. “Anywhere is Harlem, it’s just a cool state of mind/Everywhere is Harlem, tunes are the ties that will bind/ Harlem’s in you, and you can go anytime.”
Bassist Chris Colangelo and drummer Dave Karasony join Forestieri in the trio for “Again and Again (I Try To Pretend),” a captivating Carter melody, somewhat reminiscent of Victor Young’s classic “Beautiful Love,” complemented superbly by Pearl’s haunting lyric, “Again and again I try to pretend/And I ask myself when your memories will end.” Filled with octave leaps and rich low tones, Pearl’s voice dips and soars like a saxophone in this emotionally full performance.
“Anniversary Dance (Song of Long Ago)” is an enchanting Carter tune in 3/4 time (his "Waltzing the Blues" was one of the very first jazz waltzes), from the altoist’s Japanese inspired Tales of the Rising Sun Suite. The track again features Carter with his Big Band and the Rutgers University Orchestra, opening with Pearl warmly intoning her Great American Songbook styled lyric alone with Forestieri’s expressive piano, then segues movingly into Carter’s sumptuous saxophone solo backed by the orchestra, before the singer steps out front with the big band for a rousing finish. “Our love rights any wrong/Love’s a dance that lives on/You and me together, happily forever/In love’s ever-after song.” And a song you could easily hear replacing the standard “Anniversary Waltz” at those occasions.
Not even the exhaustive research of Ed Berger could turn up the identity of Carter’s “Johnny True”. With no clues, Pearl instead found inspiration in the composition’s melodic longing, and the name’s historic civil war reference, leading her to “honoring the wives, mothers and families of servicemen who wait for their loved ones to return home,” which she sings with touching poignancy.
In “Sail Away With Me” aka “Sirius Samba,” written by Carter for the award winning Faith Hubley animated film Journey To Next (one his countless scores for the silver screen), Pearl blissfully sweeps us away to a tropical vacation. The trio, propelled by Karasony’s driving Brazilian rhythms, stretches out with the singer, whose overdubbed backing vocals emphasize the song’s carefree feel.
“An Elegy In Blue,” title track of Carter’s 1994 MusicMasters album, was written to memorialize the composer’s late friend from Japan, Dr. Kiyoshi Makita, founding president of the Pacific Rim College of Psychiatrists. Pearl sings with convincing sorrow about the death of a friend who always looks on the bright side and always gets you through, but now is gone. Her vocal stings with emotion and irony as she sings, “You’d raise your glass and say/Be sad another day/Play me an elegy in blue.”
The mood returns to joyous on “Sky Dance For Two,” from Carter’s critically acclaimed Central City Sketches cd with the American Jazz Orchestra. Here Pearl finds the inspiration for her delightful lyric in the idyllic reunion of Benny and Hilma, singing exultantly “that love puts wings on your shoes.” Ever true to her source, Pearl borrows the horn line from Carter’s arrangement and scats it with the piano.
Carter composed the title track, “Souvenir Of You,” upon hearing of the passing of his friend, fellow altoist Johnny Hodges and played the moving melody throughout his career in memory of departed musical colleagues. Here Pearl addresses her dear deceased friend with gratitude and grace, ending the cd with wise words that honor the man and his enormous contribution: “Time takes our verses away/But melodies live on/Forever playing your song/At heaven’s door/ And here, a souvenir of you.”
A touching tribute to one of the greatest jazzmen to ever live, Deborah Pearl brings to life the incomparable melodies of Benny Carter on Souvenir Of You, singing and swinging lyrics inspired by the man and his music. She says, “We hope Benny’s music will play on for decades to come.” Now with her words, it will sing on, too.
Artist Website: http://deborahpearl.com/
Available at cdbaby, Amazon, iTunes & www.Deborahpearl.com
For Interviews, Photos and Promos Contact:
Jim Eigo Jazz Promo Services
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