by Constance Tucker
A journey that brings to life a vivid and colorful story line of self-awareness, achievement and a desire to live one’s life to the fullest extent. This is how Sari Kessler’s life reads on paper, but when the depth of this journey is reveled through her music it is evidently clear the culmination of her life stories are rich as each lyric takes on new meaning and style through her unique vision.
Kessler is like listening to your best friend, you are engaged in the story, it feels good, and you enjoy your time together and look forward to what is next. Kessler has a very likable timbre to her voice; it is relaxed, yet convincing as well as focused, warm and round, all very likeable and listenable qualities.
So what about the music, well that is top-notch with a backing group that consists of veteran saxophonist Houston Person, rising star trumpeter Nadje Noordhuis, ace piano accompanist John di Martino, and stylish drummer Willard Dyson is just a taste of what Do Right features and more. Much of the material is familiar, but with James Shipp and Kate McGarry at the production helm, their expertise and guidance uplift the arrangements, utilizing Kessler’s natural ability to get the essence of a song and convey an honest and believable rendering of each polished gem.
Opening with “Walk on By” made famous by Dionne Warwick, is given a laid back feel with a smoky club sound. Kessler is forlorn, introspective and taps into the heart wrenching lyric – you can instantly realize you have just begun a journey of something quite special. Noorhuis is brilliant; her muted trumpet is a perfect colorization to the track.
Producer James Shipp is prominently featured on percussion on “I Thought About You,” the tune is given a Latin feel and is presented in a much slower, lingering approach and Kessler honey drips each lyric for a more dramatic yet relaxed presentation. A Kessler original entitled “My Empty Bed Blues” features the legendary Houston Person on tenor saxophone. Kessler has a slow burn approach, she digs in deep and tells it like it is; with a dapple of sass and a whole lotta class.
“Moonglow” ties up this project with pianist John di Martino proving he is the perfect accompanist; he supports Kessler with a heavenly vocabulary of complimentary notes and solid rhythm. Kessler is exposed and you can hear every note in full view, this is where a vocalist can really prove their salt, and Kessler comes through with flying colors. Do Right proves that retirement from her clinical psychologist day gig was indeed the right choice, a marvelous calling card and the fruitful beginning for jazz vocalist Sari Kessler, one I look forward to hearing again from (I hope) soon with her next recording.
Track Listing: Walk On By; After You’ve Gone; Why Don’t You Do Right; The Gal From Joe’s; Sunny; It’s A Wonderful World; I Thought About You; The Frim Fram Sauce; Feeling Good; My Empty Bed Blues; Too Close For Comfort; Moonglow.
Personnel: Sari Kessler: vocals; John di Martino: piano; Ron Affif: guitar; Steve Whipple: bass; Willard Dyson: drums; James Shipp: percussion (1, 5, 7, 9); Houston Person: tenor saxophone (2, 3, 10); Nadje Noordhuis: trumpet, flugelhorn (1, 5, 7).