by Constance Tucker
Robin Bessier has a voice that conveys the storyline with an effervescence that sparkles, is clear and eloquent, there is a vivacity in her articulation of the lyric as exhibited in her original “Don’t Worry, We’ve Got You” that opens the CD with a light feel-good sound, followed by a quick paced take on Bobby McFerrin’s “Jubilee.” Even her treatment of “God Bless the Child” has a glimmer of hope in the smile you hear in her voice, a far more uplifting version than the downtrodden versions I have heard in the past. Her own style is imbued throughout this wonderful exploration of standards and original compositions.
Darin Clendenin on piano is and anchor point throughout Other Side of Forever (though producer/arranger Barney McClure’s guests on “God Bless the Child” with great result), even when the horns forefront, the cut, Clendenin’s comping and support ideas are perfectly complimentary, his solos create a masterful counterpoint to the vocals.
Ballads tend to be where a vocalist can lose the audience when not having proper control of their instrument all shortcomings will be immediately evident. This is actually where Bessier excelled the most; her version of “Prelude to a Kiss” was delicate, while still offering the listener a solid look at the abilities Bessier has to offer with vocal control and tenderness, all very important elements to a ballad.
“Right Here, Right Now” was reminiscent of Flora Purim’s old catalog, abounding with a wistful emotive easy flowing sound. “The Very Thought of You” offered a heavy swing reminiscent of “I Love the East/I Love the West” or “Moondance” performed in a classic arrangement. I love the hits and the deeply rooted swing. Bessier’s unison line scat with piano offered a nice accoutrement; Clipper Anderson’s bass solo offered a nice textural change. The closing track features trumpeter Jay Thomas serving up a poignant opening; his tone is brilliant and sharp, but never obtuse as Bessier enters; he gives her the respectful space needed to deliver the story-line. Surprisingly the maturity of Other Side of Forever, it was surprising this was Bessier’s debut foray. Her apprenticeship with Jan Stentz is evidently apparent; it is nice to see a vocalist take time to learn in the trenches of performance before letting the recording go that will follow them for a lifetime of career, truly a brilliant debut offering, worth the listen, worth the addition to your vocal jazz collection.