Carla Helmbrect vocals; Peter Horvath - piano; Tom Warrington bass; Joe LaBarbera, drums. With Clay Jenkins trumpet and flugelhorn; Ernie Watts sax; Larry Koonse guitar, and Michael Spiro percussion.
Tunes: Be Cool, Be Kind, Easy Love and Even Still, by Carla Helmbrect and Peter Horvath; Later for Love, Song for a Rainy Afternoon and A Miracle, by Carroll Coates; Sergio Mendezí So Many Stars; Harold Arlenís Down with Love; The Touch of Your Lips, by Ray Noble; Windmills of Your Mind, by Michel Legrand; How I Remember You, by Michael Franks; and The Party's Over, by Comden and Green .
The opening cut is the title of the CD, and one of my personal favorites, Be Cool Be Kind. This is a beautiful ballad that really grows on me. In light of the tragedy of September 11, it is important to reflect on a sentiment such as this. And this is what Carla does best: sing a love song. The head leads into a gorgeous solo on the tenor sax, played by an experienced Ernie Watts. I also really like the fills he plays on the out-chorus. Carla has a very smooth voice with very little vibrato, and that sounds so good with Wattsí saxophone.
Another original, Easy Love, uses Carlaís voice to good advantage. This is a relaxed swing tune which falls somewhere in the middle of her alto range. I like the way she mixes up the instrumentation. This number has Larry Koonse's guitar instead of piano, and that grabs the ear so that I want to listen to more.
So Many Stars and Windmills of my Mind are two of the standards Helmbrecht chose for her CD. The Sergio Mendes tune is one of my all-time favorites, and it suits Carla's voice to a tee. She gets a breathy quality but also remains in tune, and vocalizes mellifluously on an extended tag. The trumpet playing of Clay Jenkins gets a chance to shine.
It is an unexpected pleasure to hear the Windmills of my Mind played as a bossa nova with a haunting straight-eighth-note groove. Carla tells a story here, building up the verses as she goes along.
She starts Down with Love with only the bass player, then a kickiní rhythm section enters playing a double-time swing feel, which is very effective. Watts plays another killer solo here, a real finger-snapper. Carla feels comfortable at this tempo, which makes me feel like she can sing in a variety of styles. This is a cool arrangement, with stop-time breaks and nice changes during the turnaround and ending.
Peter Horvath did the arranging in addition to playing the piano on Carla's CD, and he put a lot of thought into organizing such a large mass of material. Hats off to his arranging skills I mean, who ever thought of making The Party's Over into a swinging blues? What a great idea. Helmbrecht chose well, for this collaboration works on the CD.
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