180g High Quality Pressing! Re-mastering by Ray Staff at Air Mastering!
Released in 1997, Close Your Eyes was Stacey Kent's debut album and features David Newton on piano, Jim Tomlinson on tenor saxophone, Colin Oxley on guitar, Andrew Cleyndert on double bass, and Steve Brown on drums.
"It was one day in 1996 when a demo set turned up in my BBC post-bag, one of many that I receive in my capacity of jazz radio presenter. The singers name, Stacey Kent, was new to me, and the cassette sat on my desk for weeks taunting my conscience until, faced with a long car, I gathered it up with a variety of other tapes and transferred it to my car. On the road, it happened to be the first tape I picked up from the heap on the passenger seat and the last. The singing held me riveted for the rest of the outgoing journey and throughout the return trip the next day. Now the invitation to write a note for this debut album calls upon me to analyze the cause of this rush of enthusiasm to the head. "Lets start with the feel. Stacey Kent grew up in New York, exposed to the music of Frank Sinatra, Nat King Cole, and the jazz masters of the Swing Era. Before she thought of adopting a singing career, she had come to love the repertoire of American popular song, much of which had been established decades before she was born. And it shows in every note she sings. "The next stage in my analysis leads me to style, that elusive quality which identifies an artists handling of the subject matter. Many popular songs through the ages have survived as standards largely through the attention of jazz or jazz-influenced performers. To appreciate Staceys command of style, listen to Day in, Day Out and hear the natural ease with which she varies the recurring pattern of the songs title. "Swing, elegant variation, impeccable pitch and diction these are all the stock in-trade of an accomplished jazz singer, and to combine them all is an achievement in itself. What makes Stacey Kent so remarkable is her sound. The voice itself is an impressive instrument, in pitch and timbre coming closer to Mildred Bailey than to her acknowledged idols, Billie Holiday and Ella Fitzgerald. Strong and clear, it has the invigorating tang of Vermouth. "Of course, all the magic hitherto described could be subverted by inappropriate or insensitive accompaniment. Stacey is richly served by her quintet here. The partnership between her voice and Jim Tomlinsons tenor saxophone is sublime. The latter captures the spirit rather than the substance of Lester Young, whose way it was, not to expand a tune with complex harmonic exploration, but to probe for the essence of it. Listening to Jims solos such as in Sleep Warm, the irrelevant padding, no pressing need to launch into paraphrase until the moment is ripe. "So perfect is the integration of the group as a whole that, as a rhythm section David Newton, Colin Oxley, Andy Cleyndert and Steve Brown respond with faultless sensitivity, born of experience, to the mood of each song. Solos everywhere are of the highest class, with Dream Dancing especially evoking intoxicating stuff from piano and guitar. For me, nothing sums up the rapport and cohesion of the team more concisely than the warmly relaxed Bossa nova treatment of Close Your Eyes - a shameless exercise in group seduction. "I cant conceive of a more auspicious debut than this." - Humprey Lyttelton
"The demos, which arrived unannounced, became a champion of this New Jersey-born jazz singer. You can hear why, as she works through 11 less covered selections from the Great American Songbook, remarking in a Billboard interview 'With this album, I was trying to give a mixture of the things that people know and gems that got lost, songs that might get missed out of the great standard repertoire'. Wow, did it pay off." - Ken Kessler, Hi-Fi News, September 2019, Sound Quality: 90%
Re-mastering by Ray Staff at Air Mastering, Lyndhurst Hall, London