'Two For The Road' is the latest CD release for long time Jazz Vocalist Arlene Smith.
As the name suggests, this outing is presented as a duel effort combining Arlene's unique vocal talents with the equally accomplished piano accompaniment of Mark Eisenman.
"Mark and I have always worked well together," says Arlene.
"As an accompanist, Mark gives me what every singer desires ~ wings to fly.
In 'Two For The Road' we surprised ourselves, had some joyful moments, a few good laughs and I got to sing my heart out on some of my favourite songs!" The album was recorded in an intimate and relaxed state-of-the-art recording studio in Toronto.
By holding fast to a simple, clean recording technique, what emerges is a sound reminiscent of another era.
Many of the tracks were captured in a single take ~ allowing the freedom of a bended note or an unrehearsed ending.
Most of the songs that Arlene chose for this CD, she first heard as a teenager.
Lyrics interpreted by wonderful singers such as Ella Fitzgerald, Anita O’Day, Mabel Mercer, Jeri Southern, Carmen McRae and Peggy Lee just to name a few.
"I can still remember scribbling the lyrics out furiously in the listening booth of our local music shop.
Impressing the words to memory by listening to the songs over and over again." For Arlene, the joy of the Jazz Vocalist has always been to bring honesty to the lyric.
'Two For The Road' informs the listener how much fun this music was to make.
About Arlene Smith: Like great wine, jazz vocalists - if they are very lucky, and like great wines the lucky ones are rare, grow better with age.
There is a resonance, mellowness, a richness that only time, and perhaps a few thousand nights in a heady environment of smoky jazz clubs, can instill in the vocal muscles.
Arlene Smith’s husky contralto is of a rare and wonderful vintage long appreciated by jazzaholics and also by those who are enjoying their first sips of that thing called jazz.
Arlene has cultivated a strong following throughout North America, having worked both coasts and both sides of the border.
She made her home in New York City for a decade and a half playing to packed houses with such notable sidemen as Ellis Larkins, Joe Benjamin, Clark Terry and Jimmy Jones.
A native Montrealer, Arlene was considered “the best jazz singer in Montreal,” according to music critic Bill Hartley.
She was instrumental in opening Club LaVoute in the late 80's, a club that featured internationaly acclaimed jazz musicians like Pepper Adams, Joe Newman and others.
She sang regularly at L'air du Temps and Biddles with the likes of Oliver Jones, Don Elias, Charlie Biddles, Nelson Symonds and Michael Donato.
Arlene & pianist John Hicks took part in a jazz series presented by CBC Radio Canada Arlene is truly at home when she is singing.
Her repertoire is without borders; from Fats Waller to Gershwin, Berlin to Stein, Matt Denis to Hoagy Carmicheal; she is comfortable in big band settings (where she got her start) as well as more intimate groups and works wonders with a crowd in a duo setting.
She offers everything from standards to bop, to rarely sung jazz compositions and ballads.
With this extensive a selection - she often presents evenings build around a theme or composer; a Cole Porter Songbook; Thelonius Monk's themes; Tadd Dameron works or Rogers/Hart lovers’ theme for Valentine’s Day.
In past years, Arlene has appeared throughout the Toronto Jazz circuit including regular stops at the Top O’ The Senator, Montreal Bistro, the Rex Hotel, Mezzetta Café, and Le Select Bistro.
Arlene’s concerts at the Royal Ontario Museum and the Art Gallery of Ontario drew spectacular crowds.
She was also featured at the Juno Awards presentation.
She has played with many Toronto based jazz greats including Norm Amadeo, Reg Schwager, Ed Bickert, the late Moe Koffman and Peter Appleyard.
She has performed numerous times at the Montreal, Toronto and Ottawa Jazz Festivals.
All of which is to say, that if you haven't heard Arlene yet, do yourself a favour and check her out.