A powerful and expressive singer, Jeannine Rivers knows how to tell a story in music. The Milwaukee-based vocalist’s recording debut is consistently impressive, fully displaying her talents in straight ahead and soulful jazz.
Joined by a fine rhythm section with either James Faherty or Dan Dance as pianist-arranger, Ms. Rivers performs ten of her favorite standards in addition to her original “His Nation." While some of the songs have been recorded many times by others, these renditions are fresh, spirited and contain their subtle surprises.
The opener, “The People That You Never Get To Love," finds Jeannine Rivers recalling Abbey Lincoln a bit in the way that she interprets the philosophical story. She is relaxed and swinging on “Coffee Time," particularly displaying her own personal phrasing during her second vocal. “Fine And Mellow" is taken as a lowdown blues with guitarist Bob Monagle adding to the music’s atmosphere. A joyful funk rhythm and Ray Tabs’ organ clearly inspire the singer on a catchy version of “You’d Be So Nice To Come Home To." She is particularly soulful and sultry on “Killing Me Softly With His Song."
My three favorite performances are next. During “Can’t Help Loving That Man," not only does Jeannine Rivers sound effortless on the song’s wide range but she puts plenty of her own personality into the song, swinging all the way. “All Of Me" is given a sensuous rendition that includes a spoken introduction, some powerful singing and a memorable final note. Rather than dragging like too many other versions, “Summertime" is taken at a cooking medium-tempo pace that will make one smile.
After a straightforward version of ‘Mr. Bojangles" the singer concludes the CD with “His Nation" (which was co-written with James Faherty) and a heartfelt rendition of “Everything Must Change."
All in all, this is an excellent debut for Jeannine Rivers, a fine singer who we will be hearing much more of in the future.