Sherri Roberts Presents Classic Jazz on New Release

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It’s that time of year when floral prints bloom on every midi skirt, and actual blooms appear on trees and in front yards. The theme is pretty, and can be enjoyed by all. Such is the imagery that comes to mind with the release of Sherri Roberts’ new album, “Anybody’s Spring.” With beautifully turned phrases and a traditional theme, Roberts welcomes spring with a new album and a celebration of classic jazz. The key to understanding what is going on here is the word “classic.” The tunes are easy on the ear, and in many cases familiar, and that is just fine. Most of the songs on the album have the word “spring” in the title, so the theme is fairly easy to guess.

Roberts is a veteran performer, having first recorded in 1994 on the Brownstone label. She switched to Blue House/Pacific Jazz and recorded albums in 2006 and 2013. It is not a lengthy oeuvre, but it is notable; and the current release, dated April 2017, is just in time for spring, and perhaps in time to allow more listeners the opportunity to hear jazz in an unabashedly pretty way.

Whenever an artist takes on classic hits, or standards in a genre, it might be typical to question why the artist re-did a song. There are arguments among music snobs about which songs must never be re-done, and songs that most listeners know inspire performance and re-recording, and they look forward to certain artists’ take on beloved tunes.

Roberts takes on the classics on this album, but they sound as if they belong to her alone. I can’t help returning to the title of the album, and the song, “It’s Anybody’s Spring.” The idea of ownership creates an undercurrent of freedom on this release. Spring belongs to us all, and what we choose to do with it is up to the individual. By extension, the same is true with jazz classics.

In her rendition of “It’s Anybody’s Spring” Roberts crafts a snappy, crisply sung tune that creates an image of dim clubs, a spotlighted singer in front of a heavy, red velvet curtain. The crowd, too, is envisioned, well-dressed men and women in suits and sheath dresses. But Roberts’ jazz is not just background noise for everyone’s late dinner conversation. The flexibility of the vocals keep the work from being too easily anticipated. Bright-sounding guitar and a showcased bass brings the piece to life even further.

Another familiar piece on the album is “Heart and Soul.” The bane of every reluctant piano student in late elementary school, the song is a classic sometimes sung too stridently. Here the notes are hit just right. The simple piano does not overwhelm Roberts’ gentle alto.

Roberts does not need a lengthy discography to justify her place in jazz. On this new release, she has taken a common theme, compiled jazz classics to accentuate that theme, and made old songs new for fans of all levels.

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Dodie Miller-Gould is a native of Fort Wayne, Indiana who lives in New York City where she studies creative nonfiction at Columbia University. She has BA and MA degrees in English from Indiana University-Purdue University, Fort Wayne, and an MFA in Fiction from Minnesota State University, Mankato. Her research interests include popular music and culture, 1920s jazz, and blues, confessional poetry, and the rhetoric of fiction. She has presented at numerous conferences in rhetoric and composition, and creative writing. Her creative works have appeared in Tenth Muse, Apostrophe, The Flying Island, Scavenger's Newsletter and elsewhere. She has won university-based awards for creative work and literary criticism.

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