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If Love Were All - The songs of Noel Coward

Artist: Dominic Alldis

Date of Release: 01/09/2000

Catalogue no: CANZCD2

Label: Canzona Music

Price: £12

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Appearances by

Alec Dankworth, Clark Tracey, Tim Garland

Dominic Alldis - vocal and piano
Alec Dankworth - bass
Clark Tracey - drums
Tim Garland - saxophone
Adam Glasser - harmonica

 

Reviews

 

01/05/2001 Andy Hamilton, Jazz Review

Dominic Alldis's singing raises conflicting opinions, for and against. My opinion is that this is a quite magical album, and I've been playing tracks like 'A Room With A View' and 'Sail Away' a lot. Alldis, son of choir supremo John Alldis, is a deliberately British jazz singer, in that he chooses to avoid the standard mid-Atlantic accent. It's a brave approach, but a problematic one. But then so is tackling American popular song - though listening to most, you wouldn't realise there's even an issue.

With Noel Coward, the approach should raise fewer objections. There are no problems of diction on this album - everything is perfectly articulated without a trace of Estuary English. Don't look for astonishing rhythmic flexibility here, marvels of behind-the-beat singing or virtuosity. But Alldis is a genuine jazz singer who knows how to improvise, a most difficult art. He knows how to create paraphrases of the original melody, and doesn't make the mistake of thinking that jazz singing is all about emoting - a common error for those numerous jazz singers, many of them British, who really ought to be in pop.

Coward is someone whose songs occasionally appear on jazz albums - Claire Martin's "If Love Were All" and Daryl Sherman's "A Room With A View" are recent examples. But entire albums devoted to his music are rare. As a character in his Private Lives puts it, How potent cheap music is, and his is very potent, but how jazzy it is, is a moot point. Alldis makes an excellent case for most of the songs here, if not for "Why Do The Wrong People Travel" which doesn't travel well and sounds close to a parody of Coward himself. But "Sail Away" and "A Room With A View" are infused with jazz sensibility. Alldis accompanies himself on the piano - indeed the first album on his Canzona label was a tribute to his model, The Songs Of Bill Evans. Tim Garland is a strong presence, contributing some fine solos. Alldis is highly rated by a very different singer, Mark Murphy, who praises his originality. This album fully justifies the compliment.

 

01/01/2001 Dave Nathan, All Music Guide

Dominic Alldis is one of those performers who have a strong interest in both jazz and classical music. And as others like him, Allids is most comfortable as a cabaret performer. The pianist/vocalist began his musical career in 1985 in the middle of the two genres, as resident pianist at London’s Pizza on the Park. During his two-year residency he regularly played opposite many of the world’s leading cabaret stars including Steve Ross, Blossom Dearie, Dave Frishberg and Bob Dorough, along with jazz pianists like Teddy Wilson, Dave McKenna and Roger Kellaway. He is also the author of A Classical Approach to Jazz Piano, an effort to make classical pianists aware of jazz harmonies.

Following an album of Bill Evans music, he has now turned to the enigmatic Noel Coward whose music is suited to cabaret treatment. Having said that, some of the cuts sound as if Alldis were giving a performance of Schumann lieder. Not that Coward’s material comes anywhere close to Schumann. But it’s the ambience one finds at such performances, stolid, stoic and sometimes sanctimonious. Then there are cuts where Alldis swings like on “World Weary” and “A Room With A View.” He’s helped considerably here by the jazzy sax of Tim Garland and the swinging beat of Clark Tracey’s drums. One of the album’s best tracks sort of falls in between. On “The Party’s Over Now,” Alldis is accompanied by his piano and very soulful harmonica by Adam Glasser making this tune much better that it really is.

The real problem with the album is Noel Coward. His music, while sometimes clever and witty, is dated and wears thin very quickly irrespective of the sincere efforts of the performers. The tunes on the play list are from early revues and shows like This Year of Grace, Ace of Clubs and Conversation Piece whose time has long since passed. The most recognizable Coward tune on the CD is “I’ll Follow My Secret Heart,” once more featuring fine harmonica by Glasser.

Alldis is English and perhaps Mr. Coward continues to be popular in that country. Hopefully, for his next album the singer/pianist will turn to material more suitable to his considerable talent and those of the musicians with him on this set who hang in there with typical English stiff upper lip. For Noel Coward fans only. Visit Alldis on the Internet at www.dominicalldis.com. Oh yes, the lyrics are reprinted in the liner notes.

 

01/01/2001 Philip Clark, Jazz Review

Noel Coward for the twenty first century!. Alldis plays merry havoc with the stereotypical Englishness of Coward's songs and produces remarkably vivid re-workings of both old warhorses and lesser known material. His piano playing and vocals gracefully bustle, given sensitive and highly creative support from his all-star band.

 

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