What can be said that hasn’t already been said in praise of Lorraine Feather? Three years ago, with her disc New York City Drag, she proved herself the sort of vocalist who would’ve earned five-star reviews from the legendary critic who was her dad. The following year she dazzled us as both a singer and lyricist with Cafe Society, featuring her words fitted to famous jazz compositions, Ellington’s ‘Creole Love Call’ and ‘Rockin’ in Rhythm’ among them. Now, with Such Sweet Thunder (Sanctuary) she rises to new heights by taking a full-length dive into Ellingtonia.
Feather opens with ‘Rhythm Go ‘Way’ (based on ‘’Such Sweet Thunder” from Ellington’s Shakespearean Suite, commissioned in 1956 by Canada’s esteemed Stratford Shakespearean Festival), the steamy tale of a timid suburbanite (‘I’m just a poor helpless hausfrau / Tangled in your snare’) seduced by the Ellington beat. ‘Can I Call You Sugar?’ is taken from Ellington’s ‘Sugar Rum Cherry’ (his sublime twist on ‘The Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy’). ‘Suburban Beauty’ becomes the swingin’ ‘Backwater Town.’ ‘Rexatious’ is, as ‘Tenacity,’ transformed into something straight out of Gold Diggers of 1933. Ellington and Strayhorn’s “Dancers in Love” is reimagined as “Imaginary Guy,” about a woman and her ideal, if invisible, mate (‘Got a sense of style / Yet he doesn’t preen / Sports a drop-dead smile / Keeps the kitchen clean’). There are others, equally sensational. Throughout, Feather demonstrates a pep and fizz worthy of Annie Ross at the height of her vocalese powers. Genius. Pure genius.