“The excellent cabaret/jazz singer is foremost a sensitive interpreter of lyrics. A true conservator of the Great American Songbook, she’s even added to the pool by championing the recent songs of legendary lyricist Fran Landesman.”
The Boston Globe
Four stars/excellent. “…the result is this rather fine, exquisitely programmed 15-song collection, Something Irresistible: Songs of Fran Landesman + Simon Wallace. From the most heartfelt balladry (‘Save the Photographs’) to the breeziest of up-tempo songs (‘In A New York Minute’) to the sly humour of ‘Hyde Side Blues' and ‘Did We Have Any Fun?’, these witty, urbane and touching songs exert a powerful hold. Metcalf’s central triptych of ‘Down', ‘Scars’ and the salutary caught-with-your-pants-down tale of ‘Feet Do Your Stuff’ … is outstanding.” Jazzwise (U.K.’s best-selling jazz magazine)
“Boston jazz singer Metcalf does all jazz vocal fans a favor by digging up the trenchant songs of unjustly overlooked lyricist Landesman and her current musical collaborator, Wallace. Sly, ironic, witty, hip and humorous, Landesman’s songs – little known beyond “Spring Can Really Hang You Up the Most” and “The Ballad of the Sad Young Men” – offer a trove of should-be standards that aren’t worn out. And Metcalf makes the most of these treasures with her horn-like alto and swinging attack.” The Boston Herald
A few years ago, I was on the hunt for tunes that were beautiful, clever, and poignant, but somehow hadn’t had their due. I figured if I liked one song by a lyricist or composer, chances are I’d like others. “Spring Can Really Hang You Up the Most” was one of these “starter” songs. Not recognizing the name of its lyricist, Fran Landesman, I started digging around to see what else she had written.
I soon learned that Fran has been on the scene since the 50’s and that top jazz singers have recorded many of her songs. Along with “Spring,” “Ballad of the Sad Young Men” had been a big hit. Her website gave a picture of her fascinating life in New York, St. Louis, and London (where she’s lived since the mid 60’s). I found more great songs (with charts) on her site, but also many lyrics with no music. I called music publishers and music stores and searched online, but there didn’t seem to be any published songbooks of this recent work. Finally I found an email address for Simon Wallace, the highly respected British composer and pianist who began collaborating with Fran in 1994. “I love your songs with Fran Landesman! Where can I find charts?” I asked.
Simon wrote me right back. He said that he and Fran had written more than 300 songs together, and, as it happens, he was just putting the final touches on their first songbook, containing thirty of their earliest collaborations. He was, he wrote, happy for a nudge to finish the project up. Not only that, in March he’d be performing at the Café Carlyle in Manhattan. We arranged to meet there, and when the time came, to New York I went. After the show we chatted over drinks at the Bemelman’s Bar, and I came home with the first copy of the Fran Landesman/Simon Wallace songbook.
Back in Cambridge, pianist/arranger Ron Roy and I sat down and played through the songs. We were thrilled beyond belief! Here were songs in the American Songbook style, but with a modern twist---funny, ironic, gorgeous, sexy, sometimes quite dark, and quite often about issues and topics other than love. We immediately began adding them to our repertoire, and then selected fifteen of our favorites for this album, released in March 2010. This is the first recording of the Landesman/Wallace songbook by U.S. musicians.
Before we released the album, I made a trip to London to meet Fran. It was wonderful to meet her, and hear her talk about her songs and her life. Simon was there too, at the piano, and we did a lot of laughing and a lot of singing.
Ron Roy and I have had the chance to share these great songs around the country. To date, we've presented our Landesman show five times at the Metropolitan Room (New York City), and at Scullers Jazz Club (Boston), the Rrazz Room (San Francisco), Davenport's (Chicago.), and at the Provincetown Cabaret Fest (Cape Cod, MA). In the spring of 2010 we'll head to St. Louis, where the Landesmans ran a cabaret club in the 50's and 60's.
Discovering this treasure trove of tunes, and making this album, has been a marvelous musical journey. In one way, the journey is now over, for Fran died this summer, at the age of 83. So there will be no more new songs from her, but I will continue to champion this songbook from the last chapter of her life.