Look For the Silver Lining
2024 / Stella Bass (IMRO/MCPS)
Review by Kathy Parsons
Look For the Silver Lining is the second album from Irish jazz vocalist Stella Bass and is reflective of some of the challenges the world has been dealing with since 2020. The ten tracks on the album consist of Stella's unique take on eight classic songs from The Great American Songbook and two of her own original collaborations that were created during the lockdowns of the Covid pandemic. Backed by the Johnny Taylor Trio (Taylor on piano, Barry Donohue on double bass, and Dominic Mullan on drums) as well as Michael Buckley on sax and Ronan Dooney on flugelhorn, the music varies from delicate ballads to Latin grooves and upbeat swing rhythms that allow Stella to use the full emotional range of her very expressive voice. Wanting to create something hopeful and positive, the songs she chose to include on the album also express her sentiments of defiance and positivity in the face of widespread hardship. It's a very impressive project that's sure to get your toes tapping and your mood elevating.
Look For the Silver Lining begins with Stephen Sondheim's "Being Alive," a slow, passionate ballad about being wanted and needed as well as loved. Putting the lyrics in the context of the pandemic gives the song a somewhat different meaning than was originally intended - a great start! "Blame It On My Youth" (Oscar Levant/Edward Heyman) expresses heartbreak by way of Stella's voice as well as the excellent flugelhorn solo within the song. The tempo takes a very lively turn with Steve Allen's playful "This Could Be the Start of Something Big" - sure to bring a smile! The first of the two original songs is a collaboration with Yann O'Brien titled "All The Colours of My Love," a sensuous ballad with a catchy groove. I was surprised (pleasantly!) to discover that "Pure Imagination" from the 1971 film, Willie Wonka & The Chocolate Factory, was included, but its effortless magic fits right in and is one of the album's highlights. The second original song is a collaboration with Neville Lloyd and is titled "Still." Another song of heartbreak and lost love, it feels deeply personal and painfully sincere. Johnny Taylor's piano is the only accompaniment on this track and is the perfect complement to Stella's voice - simple, direct and very honest. The title track has an interesting backstory about Stella being down with a bad case of the flu and watching Downton Abbey when she heard Jerome Kern's song and knew immediately that it would be the name of her next album. Gently optimistic and warmly encouraging, it's a great theme for the album (as well as for life in general). Irving Berlin's "Change Partners" is a sensuous ballad of longing (or maybe lusting?) that brings the album to a close with a bittersweet groove that feels just right.
Look For the Silver Lining is available for downloads and streaming from Amazon, Apple Music/iTunes and streaming sites including Spotify. Don't miss this one!
January 18, 2024