Rachel Caswell’s “We’re All in the Dance” contains innovative interpretations

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Just in time for fall, singer Rachel Caswell’s new album, “We’re All in the Dance,” appears. The album is full of the kind of classic jazz sounds that will remind listeners of fall in big cities as romanticized in popular media. The album brims with phrasing that stretches and sways and in general makes for a fuller sound.

“We’re All in the Dance” contains 10 cover songs that Caswell makes sound as though they were hers. The range of songs runs from tracks by Sting to Thelonious Monk. What results are beautifully rendered songs that engage both novice and advanced jazz fans.

A bit about Rachel Caswell

From what can be gathered online, Caswell is both a serious jazz musician and music educator. She has recorded three other albums before “We’re All in the Dance.” Caswell’s previous work consisted of two solo albums in 2003 and 2015, and a Caswell sisters’ album that was released in 2013.

Caswell’s dedication to performing and recording is probably well-supported by her academic credentials. Having simultaneously earned two bachelor of music degrees, one in cello performance, and one in jazz studies, Caswell took things a step further and earned a Master of Music degree in jazz voice. Her bachelor degrees were earned at Indiana University, and her master’s degree was earned at the New England Conservatory of Music.

Caswell has done more than just earn degrees – – at least as recently as 2015, she was an adjunct music professor at Indiana University.

On her most recent album, Caswell is joined by her sister, Sara Caswell on violin, the legendary Dave Stryker on guitar, Fabian Almazan on piano and fender rhodes, Linda May Han Oh on bass, and Johnathon Blake on drums.

The sound of “We’re All in the Dance” by Rachel Caswell

“We’re All in the Dance” contains what is probably the biggest surprise on a jazz album. That is, a cover of “Fragile” by Sting. In Caswell’s style, the song is removed almost entirely from its rock-pop roots. Without prior knowledge, a person could assume that the song was another jazz song. The bass and piano create a swaying feel and Caswell’s voice floats above it. The violin plays a series of long notes to accompany Caswell’s vocals during the chorus. The poetry of Sting’s lyrics come to life in the interpretation of them done here.

What stands out about Caswell’s style is her phrasing. It is complemented by a soundscape that doesn’t overwhelm. Listeners can hear the slight swing in the instrumentation, but all the instruments work to highlight Caswell’s style.

The violin solo is an effective and unexpected touch. The work on this song shows that Caswell is adept at finding where jazz intersects with other genres. Another treat on this song is Caswell’s vocalese. It is a surprise because her singing worked so well to bring the song to life, that listeners just assume it won’t happen. But it does, and afterward, there are showcases of piano and guitar.

There is so much going on that “Fragile” becomes anything but stereotypical or flat. Hearing the way Caswell holds onto a syllable where other singers would let go is engaging. The overall impression of the song is that it is beautifully and masterfully re-interpreted.

“We’re All in the Dance” is forthcoming Sept. 7, 2018.

 

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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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