by Constance Tucker
My first introduction to Polly Gibbons was her release in 2006 What’s the Real Reason? An R&B based pop album that immediately drew the listener to her commanding voice. As each release progressed the British vocalist began to settle more and more into the jazz vein and now with her second album for Resonance Is It Me…?, her journey is coming into a more perfect view.
Thomas Dolby’s “Ability to Swing” is aptly titled, Gibbons swings and swings with precision. Backed by a screaming hot top-shelf horn section, it gives the tune a funkified feeling of groove and soul. The brass section also acts as a high-octane boost on “You Can’t Just…,”which is one of three songs penned by Gibbons and her pianist/arranger, James Pearson. The pair also co-wrote the wistfully lyrical title track with great result.
“Basin Street Blues” is a bluesy pleaser, and Gibbons sells it with her chocolate hued voice. A soul-infused number “Midnight Prayer” (a Gibbons/Pearson original) gives a gospel feel to the proceedings and Gibbons is up for the task. “Sack Full of Dreams” is presented in the same vein, with a big more commercial polish, but both pinned directly in a gospel flair.
There are also quartet swing backed numbers like “Wrap Your Troubles in Dreams” and the pensive ballad “Wild Is the Wind.” Gibbons softer side is fragile, and convincing.
The slinkified “Dr Feelgood” let’s the listener know this gal means business. Whereas, standards like Duke Ellington’s “I Let a Song Go Out of My Heart” exemplifies this lady can swing like the best of them. Sassy, classy and perfectly spiced, the straight-ahead feel is given a texture feel mid-way through, for an added lilt. The final track, “Don’t Be on The Outside” is a live track on the album and is credited as a bonus track, and indeed it is a bonus. You can feel the energy between Gibbons and her backing ensemble immediately.
Possessing a powerhouse voice and equally gifted ability to delivery in multiples of genres, Gibbons is doing her country proud as an ambassador of high talent. A joy to listen to from beginning to end, and the variance of styles keeps the listener engaged. A true treat to be complete.
Personnel: Polly Gibbons: vocals; James Pearson, Tamir Hendelman: piano; Graham Dechter: guitar; Shedrick Mitchell: Hammond B-3 organ (3,7); Kevin Axt: bass; Ray Brinker: drums; Willie Murillo, Vinny Dawson: trumpet; Bob McChesney, Andy Martin: trombone; Bob Sheppard, Keith Bishop: alto saxophone, tenor saxophone, clarinet, flute; Brian Scanlon alto saxophone, tenor saxophone, flute; Tom Peterson: baritone saxophone, tenor saxophone.
Track Listing: Ability To Swing; You Can’t Just…; Sackful Of Dreams; Wrap Your Troubles In Dreams; Wild Is The Wind; Basin St. Blues; Midnight Prayer; Is It Me…?; Pure Imagination; Dr. Feelgood; I Let A Song Go Out Of My Heart; Don’t Be On The Outside.