Janette Mason – D’Ranged (Fireball Records)

Producing + Recording Mixing & Mastering

Janette Mason, the UK-based session pianist and composer, doesn’t play as much jazz as the cognoscenti might like – and this almost entirely vocal set of classic R&B and soul hits keeps her fluent postbop chops even more modestly disguised. But for all her familiarity with the commercial mainstream, Mason can’t do anything obvious or unhip, and these covers benefit from three key choices – hiring the superb singers Gwyneth Herbert, David McAlmont, Vula Malinga, Claire Martin and Texan newcomer Tatiana “LadyMay” Mayfield; picking a subtle, jazz-steeped session band; and writing arrangements that sympathetically reinvent the songs. Mayfield soars and swerves over slinky Motown horn hooks and Paul Booth’s bluesy soul-sax on Stevie Wonder’s I Wish, Bowie’s Lady Grinning Soul gets an eerily irresistible treatment from McAlmont’s contemporary-Nat-Cole sound, and Ashes to Ashes (This Is Not America) finds Mason in grippingly Bad Plus-like instrumental mode. Claire Martin steers a pristine Blue Moon through a quirkily displaced arrangement, and Gwyneth Herbert flags up what a sophisticated jazz-ballad artist she remains on This House, and You Do Something to Me. It’s all beautifully produced, too.

John FordhamThe Guardian **** (4 stars)

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