CD Review: Gill Manly - The Lies of Handsome Men

Gill Manly - The Lies of Handsome Men
(Sacrebleu SB001. CD Review by Chris Parker)


A sophisticated, supremely jazz-literate singer, Gill Manly is justly celebrated for albums such as her recent Ella Fitzgerald tribute, With a Song in My Heart (Linn AKD 328), but here she addresses, in her own words, ‘some of the jewels I have guarded in my personal treasure trove of “songs I want to record one day”’.

She begins with a song she used to listen to Blossom Dearie performing at the Pizza on the Park in the 1980s: the title-track, Francesca Blumenthal’s ‘The Lies of Handsome Men’ (‘a tongue-in-cheek biographical nod to my past’). All Manly’s vocal skills are immediately apparent: an ability to combine informal, almost conversational intimacy with technical control; an adept way of delivering a lyric so that its emotional content is delivered straight to the listener without a hint of sentimentality or contrivance; a lightly borne flexibility with regard to timbre and dynamics.

Dave Frishberg’s ‘Peel Me a Grape’, while eschewing the overt sensuality of, say, Diana Krall’s version, is an object lesson in allowing the succinct wit of a songwriter to shine; ‘Wild is the Wind’ sensibly takes the understated Shirley Horn (rather than the engagingly batty, grandiloquent David Bowie) route; classics such as ‘Charade’, ‘Windmills of Your Mind’ and ‘How Insensitive’ receive equally sympathetic treatment, Manly at once confiding and intense, meditative and cogent.

With a guest appearance from pianist/singer Buddy Greco on the Cahn/Van Heusen classic ‘Second Time Around’, and all the rest of the album’s fifteen tracks featuring the flawless piano accompaniment of Simon Wallace, this is an absorbing album that consistently delivers on Manly’s declared aim: ‘to use a composition to represent fully its content and poetry’.

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