A Manhattan backdrop substitutes for prairie land and open sky on Jazz Country, the big-hearted hybrid album from singer Amy Cervini that’s as endearing and tender as a vocal recording can be in 2014. She smartly transcends genre boundaries or anything else that gets in the way of the purity of a song. The spare musical accompaniment by guitarist Jesse Lewis and bassist Matt Aranoff frame Cervini’s renditions of these classic American songs simply and earnestly, underscoring her candor and crystalline delivery.
As an interpreter of song, Cervini never delivers a false or insincere note. More than her previous, joyful celebration of the music of Blossom Dearie, Cervini has honed these stories to perfection, incubating them in clubs for three years, particularly Cornelia Street Café and 55 Bar in NYC's Greenwich Village where I had a chance to hear early incarnations of some of these tunes. You can hear that these are songs closest to her soul.
Jazz Country has many highlights, including tunes by Rodgers and Hart (“Blue Moon”), Hank Williams (“I’m So Lonely I Could Cry”) and Neil Young’s “After The Gold Rush.” Selflessly, Cervini asked drummer Matt Wilson to produce this album for her, and their fruitful collaboration bears magnificent results, particularly with their choice of invited guests like saxophonist Anat Cohen whose delicious solo ripens “Fram Fram Sauce” and singer Nellie McKay who augments Cervini’s best tune on the recording, Dave Frishberg’s “Wallflower Lonely, Cornflower Blue” where we also get a too-brief solo from Cervini on her saxophone. There are more pleasures on Jazz Country and a minor misstep (“Calling You”), and though some may question whether jazz or country carries greater weight here, it’s a moot point because this knockout record from Amy Cervini is an incomparable delight.
This article is from the February 2014 edition of ICON Magazine, the only publication in the Greater Delaware Valley and beyond solely devoted to coverage of music, fine and performing arts, pop culture, and entertainment. More Information.