Sophie Milman - Make Someone Happy 
Music Disc Reviews Audio CD
Written by Scott Yanow   
Saturday, 01 December 2007

format:    16-bit CD
performance:    7
sound:    7
released:    2007
label:    Linus
reviewer:    Scott Yanow

One can be excused if their initial reaction to seeing the cover of Sophie Milman's Make Someone Happy is to cry out “Not another one!” Here is yet another beautiful mid-20s female jazz vocalist (dressed in black, natch) with a nice voice, performing standards. At times it seems like an epidemic, having started with Diana Krall and continuing through Jane Monheit and countless others who have been fighting for the spotlight.

And yet most of those singers are quite good, and Sophie Milman better than most. On the opening “People Will Say We're in Love,” her phrasing is creative in a subtle way. She hints strongly at a variety of singers from the 1950s (Anita O'Day? Peggy Lee? June Christy?) without really sounding like any of them. Her repertoire spans several generations, with the vintage tunes balanced out by a bossa nova treatment of “Something in the Air Between Us,” Stevie Wonder's “Rocket Love,” the Guess Who's “Undun,” a few relatively recent songs and the traditional folk song “Eli, Eli.”

Milman is joined by pianist Paul Shrofel's trio, occasional woodwinds and strings (Cameron Wallis is responsible for the great majority of the consistently colorful arrangements), and a few guest soloists who are used for color. The contributions of Gregoire Maret (“Rocket Love”) and flugelhornist Guido Basso (“Like Someone in Love”), along with some spots for Wallis' tenor sax, are welcome bits of variety. Particularly interesting is the inclusion of heavyweight Canadian rock guitarist Randy Bachman, who authored and played rousing, memorable lead guitar for his old band the Guess Who on their chart hit “Undun.” But the main focus is on the singer throughout her second recording, and she pulls it off very well. “Undun” and “Song Long You Fool” could become jazz standards based on these versions. And while a few of the other numbers really did not need to be revived again (isn't it time to retire “Fever”?), the moods, tempos and grooves are constantly changing, so this set holds on to one's interest throughout.

Whether smoldering on “Make Someone Happy,” racing through a double-time version of “It Might As Well Be Spring” or putting honest feeling into “Matchmaker, Matchmaker,” Sophie Milman is quite successful. Her maturity, deep voice and understanding of the lyrics make her one of the most impressive jazz singers of her generation.

The personnel and instrumentation change from track-to-track, ranging from a trio with piano and cello on “Eli, Eli” to a 10-piece group including a string quartet on “Something in the Air Between Us.” Although certainly a challenge for engineer John “Beatle” Bailey at the studios in Toronto, there are no moments when an instrument is lost in the mix, the balance seems odd or the recording quality draws attention to itself.

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