BWW CD Review: With TAKING A CHANCE ON LOVE Linda Purl Takes No Prisoners
There are times in life when combining two particular things, two special items, two individual forces creates a chemical reaction that produces one magnificent experience. Dark chocolate and ripe strawberries. The sea air and a sunset. A free afternoon and a pillow. When Linda Purl and Tedd Firth walk into a room where there is a piano, something spectacular is the guaranteed result, and it isn’t just a one-time thing – this is a surefire safe bet: Firth plus Purl equals great music – intimate, individual, intriguing and intoxicating music.
One of the most exquisite voices in the club and concert industry, Linda Purl has been sharing her golden, honey-coated and priceless instrument with music lovers for years, whether performing at the Los Angeles S.T.A.G.E benefits, on cabaret stages around the country, or from the recording booths where have been made five solo CDs that have showcased the inimitable quality of her both her voice and her ability. On her first album, the 1998 release Alone Together, Ms. Purl offered one of the most original and thrilling spins ever created for a famous song, completely reinventing “Hold Me Thrill Me Kiss Me” and in 2005 the virtuosa took advantage of her CD Out of This World to treat a live audience to a “Midnight Sun” that makes you feel like you’re dancing with your true love by candlelight, as the most elegant wedding of all time is winding down, while Purl’s 2013 disc, Midnight Caravan, provides listeners with a recording of “Autumn in New York” that’s reminiscent of a sophisticated Peter Bogdonavich movie. All of these albums capture Linda Purl‘s artistry at its most beautiful, if somewhat traditional, best.
Then, in 2016, Linda Purl released a CD titled Up Jumped Spring, and something interesting happened: The Purl had a new sound. There was a bold, audacious, almost rebellious quality to Linda’s approach to songs people know and love, songs that a person would see on a CD tracklist, and say, “Oooh, I want to hear Linda Purl sing that.” Then they get the CD in their player and discover a Linda Purl so different from that which they had, previously, known that a tidal wave of excitement sets in. It’s like when Sabrina returns from Paris and David sees her for the first time in all her chic French finery. It’s like one of the world’s great painters turned to sculpture and a slack-jawed public says “Oh my gosh, they can do THAT too?” So what happened? What did Linda Purl do between 20013 and 2016 that brought about the change in her aesthetic?
Up Jumped Spring is the first Linda Purl album to carry a Tedd Firth credit; with this new friend and musical director by her side, Linda Purl had found a new sound, a different mission statement as an artist, and a provocative point of view with which to showcase that which she sees inside of the music that speaks to her. It’s an exciting part of the relationship between a fan and a performer, the observation of their evolution, and this is a trajectory worth investigating, and make no mistake: it is exciting. Now, four years later, Purl and Firth continue their aggressive progression deeper into their spectacular collaboration with the release of the daring TAKING A CHANCE ON LOVE.
On the subject of jazz, the great actress Glenn Close once said, “I truly believe that it really is the most profound expression of who we are as a species and what we are as a species.” Linda Purl and Tedd Firth have examined 15 compositions on this 12 track-59 minute album and they have turned those songs into emotional storytelling that reflects ways of seeing things that are most unique to that which they have experienced, in life and through the music. There is no possible way to listen to Taking a Chance On Love and hear anything remotely familiar. Oh, the songs are recognizable tunes that listeners will want to hear because who doesn’t want, at any given moment, to hear “Pure Imagination” or “Come Fly With Me”? Everybody wants to hear these songs. This is not, though, just another opportunity to play music you’ve listened to and loved all your life – it’s a chance to take it out for a new spin, to pop the hood and see what’s inside of the mind of an artist, to learn what somebody else’s relationship is to a mutually shared experience. It is beguiling, sitting back and allowing yourself to be pulled into the Firth/Purl reverie as their mashup of the Willy Wonka tune and a dream of a song from Peter Pan begins the tour. Indeed, the adventure is as inviting as hearing the songs for the first time as children, only now you’re hearing them for the first time… as adults; and this is just the first cut on the CD – what other vistas and adventures await?
In their examination of The Great American Songbook, Linda Purl and Tedd Firth deconstruct and discover new ways of exploring and enjoying Rodgers and Hammerstein, Lerner and Lane, Coleman and Leigh, and Purl is in enviable voice; there is, in fact, a chance that the chanteuse extraordinaire has never been in better voice, as evidenced in an impressive “Lucky Day/Shooting High” medley that provides the lady with ample opportunities to display both power and prowess. With a fun mixture of balladic recordings and swing numbers, the album is rendered doubly enjoyable by a plethora of instrumental solos from Firth on piano, bassist David Finck, Ray Marchica on drums and the dazzling Nelson Rangell on reeds, participating as a special guest for a fabulously flirtatious “Wave” and a sensually seductive “Darn The Dream.” As the CD plays, with each new recording, Ms. Purl unabashedly leads all, musicians and listeners alike, further down the path of musical transcendence.
Aside from the title track, particularly enjoyable are recordings of “Too Late Now” and “Throw It Away” that are almost more emotion-laden musical perfection for one person to handle. One can’t help but surmise that the true nature of the Purl-Firth collaboration is most perfectly captured by the playful, swing-filled treatment of “You Fascinate Me So” that radiates fun, joy, and the absolute artistic bliss coming from the stereo speakers like an insistent reminder that Linda Purl is on an artistic path of exploration and evolution that just gets better with each new creation. It is more than clear that, with this creative partnership, Tedd Firth and Linda Purl have made one of those rare, fair, memorable musical marriages that will yield excellence with every club act, any cd, and each passing year, the lucky beneficiaries of their association and creation being all who seek out greatness in musical storytelling.