TAKING A CHANCE ON LOVE
If theatre shutdowns were not our current reality, actress-singer Linda Purl’s schedule this month would have brought her to California in a stage piece about the life of iconic vocalist Rosemary Clooney, co-starring Jason Graae. Instead, she’s promoting her new recording remotely and donating initial proceeds to MusiCares’ Covid-19 Relief Fund and The Actors Fund. Taking a Chance on Love finds her at her musical best and most jazzily adventurous. This is her fifth solo recording.
Inhabiting many moods and perspectives, her acting instincts and “song smarts” developed over many years of stage, film, TV, and cabaret experience all seem to be drawn upon. I don’t know how much she may have absorbed about the characters in The King and I from her Japan childhood acting experience in trousers playing young Louis in Japanese, but the score’s adult love ballad “I Have Dreamed” seems to be part of her.
Her intensity, inventive individualized phrasing, and shifting emphases make it seem in the moment and unique, stressing the middle word in the title to give the declaration a different definitiveness. The song shimmers. Refreshing command of material is prevalent on the rewarding recording; surprises keep coming. Perhaps the best example is “Come Fly with Me,” known as a jaunty Frank Sinatra hit, here slowed down to make it a rapturous invitation to a paradise-like experience, bookended by parts of another evocative composition, “And We Will Fly.” The mixture becomes almost ethereal.
The standard that gives the 12-track Taking a Chance on Love its title becomes extra special from the get-go simply by the gratifying decision to include the rarely sung introductory verse. Everything seems invested with purpose and import, with Billy Joel’s “Lullabye” (“Goodnight, My Angel”) delicately detailed, painted with precision. Singer and musicians know the power of taking moments to let something sink in quietly or build. Dynamics are well used so that moods and sounds can develop without clutter.
Much of the endeavor is quite mesmerizing, the opening lyric to “Wave”—the suggestion being “So close your eyes”—worthy advice to take in every bit of the immersive-worthy landscape. Tedd Firth is at the apex of his artfulness in sympathetic shapings and sensitive playing that becomes the subtext, support, and foreshadowing of anticipated effects. The piano seems to be dancing with the lyric as acted by Linda Purl. They are joined by veteran bassist David Finck and tasteful drummer Ray Marchica, with reed player Nelson Rangell guesting. While these are superbly skillful musicians, their work is never gratuitously self-serving, but always in service to the songs.
Warm and wise, Taking a Chance on Love may take some chances on love songs by sometimes taking them apart and putting them back together in new ways, but the chances pay off—handsomely.