Like sailors to the Siren's song, classical sopranos looking for a new recording project are sometimes drawn to jazz. It's a treacherous route to navigate for the classically trained. Yet, (with apologies to Margaret Atwood) “even though they see the beached skulls” of other divas who've wrecked their ships on crossover’s rocky shore, they can't seem to help leaping overboard themselves.
Why is that exactly? Well, the songs are irresistible. I think that goes without saying. But maybe it's also because – looking past the many spectacular shipwrecks – there are some amazing and unusual treasures that have been discovered on crossover island. Maybe there are still more to find? It's impossible to know without diving into the water first.
Canadian soprano Measha Brueggergosman is the latest to take the plunge into this particular sea, with her recent release I've Got a Crush On You (Kelp). Backed by a band led by pianist Aaron Davis (founding member of the Holly Cole Trio), Brueggergosman charts a personal course through some favourite jazz standards, gospel spirituals and pop songs.
So, how did she do? Have a listen to her version of “Misty” performed as a duet with Martin Short:
As a point of reference, here are a half-dozen other famous sopranos who've ventured into jazz waters in the past two decades. As you will hear (and see), even with some of the world’s top opera singers, the results can be mixed – just like those strange half-bird/half-woman bodies of the mysterious Sirens.
Anne Sofie von Otter
With: Brad Mehldau (piano)
Album: Love Songs (2010/Naive)
Sample Track: “Something Good”
With: Magnus Lindgren Quartet
Album: Barbara Sings the Blues (2008/Arte Verum)
Sample Track: “Billie's Blues - I Love my Man”
With: Bill Frisell (guitar) and Fred Hersch (piano)
Album: Haunted Heart (2005/Decca)
Sample Track: “My One and Only Love”
With: Michel Legrand (piano), Ron Carter (bass) and Grady Tate (drums)
Album: I Was Born In Love With You: Jessye Norman Sings Michel Legrand (2000/Polygram)
Sample Track: “The Summer Knows”
With: Grover Washington, Jr. (soprano saxophone), James Carter (bass clarinet), Cyrus Chestnut (piano), Christian McBride (bass) and others.
Album: So Many Stars (1995/Sony)
Sample Track: “So Many Stars”
Kiri Te Kanawa
With: André Previn (piano), Mundell Lowe (guitar) and Ray Brown (bass)
Album: Kiri Sidetracks: The Jazz Album (1992/Polygram)
Sample Track: “Cute”
Have we left anyone out? Who is your favourite (or least favourite) crossover soprano? Let us know in the comments below.
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on May 02, 2012