On “Recollecting You,” her eighth album, Kathy Sanborn sings poetic lyrics on the theme of “love” interpreted in different ways. While others are re-casting classics in creative ways, Sanborn presents an album of originals. Lyrics are provided as part of the pastel-colored CD packaging so that listeners can both read and hear the poetry of each line. The result here is not showy, but it is consistent. There are homages here (intended or not) and they belong to Anita Day and in terms of sweetness and light, Karen Carpenter.
Among the musicians that provide instrumentation support to Sanborn’s exploration of love are Keerthy Narayanan, who produced the album and plays keyboards and bass. Narayanan was part of a New Age recording project that won a Grammy. Sanborn is also joined by Ciro Hurtado, a Latin Grammy nominee, on guitar.
Given the romantic theme of the recording, Sanborn’s meaning here seems obvious. However, this is a less-than-ideal situation. The opening instrumentation is a lively piano, which indicates kinetic activity. Perhaps running up a hill? Pursuing a lover? Then the subtle drums, mournful guitar, and trumpet kick in, and the lyrics detail a fall to “the depths of” the singer’s soul. This is not a song about love’s first blush; this is love lost. Sanborn sings with phrasing that stays just this side of artful and asks listeners’ permission to dream of her lost love. The vulnerability keeps the veteran theme fresh.
At the second verse, the song takes on the cymbal-rich sound that characterized a great deal of 1960s and 1970s pop songs. Depending on the listener, when words like “falling” or “floating” are sung with a succession of low or high notes (depending on the verb), it can create memories of songs like “Walking in Space” from the musical, “Hair” in which notation follows lyrical content. Sanborn’s lyrics are simple, and for her purpose, that works. The instrumentation is pretty and laid-back, and there is plenty for listeners to enjoy if they want an album that they can just listen to on crisp nights by a fire. The instruments effectively portray the emotions that Sanborn sings about, giving the work a cohesive feel.
The song is featured twice on the album. One is given the traditional vocal treatment, and the one that ends the album is unabashed vocalese. The experience is unexpectedly pleasant. For all the emotional turmoil, the last thing I expected was an expressive lullaby, complemented by the lonely call of a trumpet that could be the soundtrack for dramatic movies with pensive final scenes. Sanborn’s vocalese is quite good compared to other jazz singers heard of late, and near the end when the end of her line vanishes with the cymbals’ crash, the effect is like hearing a sunburst.
Albums like this remind listeners that all things jazz need not be the product of wild experimentation, or a hybrid of some sort. Sometimes, a singer can simply set her heart in straightforward lyrics, employ a world-class crew of musicians to get the sound right and present the results to the world with the satisfaction that such is the right thing to do. The CD will be available Aug. 4, 2017.