Toronto-born vocalist, pianist, producer, and arranger Elizabeth Shepherd brings a spirit of freshness to Rewind, her first full-length album of standards.
In the world of jazz singing, standards are, well, standard. Many have tiptoed through the well-travelled tulips only to take the path most travelled, with by-rote arrangements putting outstanding voices through the paces with ho-hum consequences. In the case of Shepherd’s Rewind, however, standards are placed into some truly stimulating spaces.
With her Heavy Falls the Night earning critical acclaim and an appearance on the long-list for the Polaris Prize, the two-time Juno nominee took to the new record with a decidedly delicate point of view. She didn’t decide to make an album of standards until she became pregnant: the idea was to connect her adoration of familiar pieces with the corporeal (and transcendent) changes that came with maternity.
In that regard, the discovery came that life is far from stable.
“Now that the album is done, I realize that while pregnancy is a time of unprecedented, extreme change, and motherhood an even deeper process of adaptation, the illusion of holding onto something fixed is just that — an illusion,” she says. “… It (the album) is one more face of change, an act of discovering and embracing yet another aspect of my self — my musical self.”
Rewind effectively proves that, even in the case of standards, change is inevitable with every new touch.
“Love for Sale,” the Cole Porter classic, is given a pop take. Driven by Shepherd’s work on the Wurlitzer and Colin Kingsmore’s hip drum beat, the tune is a cool slice of suave evolution. With faultless phrasing and sparkling expression that packs just a hint of whisper, Shepherd takes full possession of the song. “Lonely House” takes things in a different direction. The patient piece features Ross MacIntyre’s double-bass and Shepherd’s extraordinary vocal performance, her distinct inhalation giving more air to each immaculate, poignant note.
Whether discovering the familiar (“Feeling Good”) or the not-so-familiar (“Buzzard Song”), Shepherd’s take is always enlightening and always spirited. She enchants on “Born to Be Blue” and astonishes along with Denzal Sinclaire on “Prelude to a Kiss,” all the while preserving musicality and whimsical authenticity.
Rewind is more than a warm look back; it’s a robust step onward into the truth.