Corky Hale. A glance through her bio reveals she plays everything, piano, harp, flute,cello, even the odd steel guitar lick, and that she's done so with everyone from Billie to Barbra to Bjork. Oh yeah, and she sings too. In this collection of romantic classics, Corky has assembled a stellar cast of friends to revel in the riches of the Great American Songbook.
Brenna Whitaker starts the set off at a high point with her aching "If I Should Lose You," soaring over Corky's lush, rippling harp. And together with a harp-driven rhythm section, they transform one of Rodgers & Hart's greatest ballads, "Where or When, into a sultry samba.
Tricia Tahara finds subtle volumes of feeling in the other great Rodgers & Hart ballad in this collection, "My Romance," and casts soulful shadows that bring out the light in the gorgeous title track "I'm Glad there is You," while Corky displays even more of the singular harp playing that, as much for its virtuosity as its novelty, has made so many people forget what a superb pianist she is.
But Corky reminds us on "I've Got a Crush On You," with her sympathetic phrasing and wondrous piano voicings under Sally Kellerman's winking, crooning take on the Gershwin chestnut.
Sally passes the mic to Ariana Savalas, who displays an engagingly light and intimate touch on the lovely "I See You Face Before Me."
"Black is the Color of My True Love's Hair" is a two-fold tribute: Corky honors the Celtic harp tradition, while Freda Payn pays homage to Nina Simone. Then, Corky's piano makes the most of those beautiful Burt Bacharach changes in "Alfie," as Freda deftly navigates the angular melody to explore the profundity of one of Hal David's finest lyrics.
Last but definitely not least, Corky gives three of the most moving vocal performances on the album, positively sparkling with the wide-eyed wonder of romance. Indeed, on "The More I See You," she sounds as if she were falling in love at that very moment. And sitting at the piano with a rhythm section (finally!) she evokes her hero Bill Evans with the Debby-like waltz on "Like Someone in Love" and her impressionistic solo on "You're getting to Be a Habit With Me."
So, perhaps it's churlish of me to complain that the world is unjust. Yes, this CD will likely be outsold by any number of cynical exercises in production line pop. But in this world of ordinary players, extraordinary players...I'm glad there is Corky
--Peter M Stoller