by Constance Tucker
Vocalist Sherri Roberts, sheds light on the beauty and potential of Spring. Adorned with twelve standards Anybody’s Spring is a breath of fresh air. Based in San Francisco, the vocalist is a passionate, communicative singer whose poignant emotive abilities never supersede the musical vehicle. Roberts gets into the marrow of the lyric by offering the listener a chance to experience the song, rather than pyrotechnics of every technique shoved into one tune. This only comes from years on the bandstand, years of working your craft, and truly understanding the true meaning of the standards.
What is immediately evident is her relaxed phrasing, while fully in command of her instrument, Roberts conjures up an unaffected organic vocal sound. Consummate professionals join Roberts: David Udolf on piano, Harvie S on bass, Akira Tana on drums and Sheryl Bailey on guitar (tracks 1, 4, 7, and 10).
I might add, it’s nice to hear a thematic album, and the timing seems apropos for Roberts as this is her fifth album as a leader, which again is reflected in her experience, as she creates an engaging program that is well-paced, and offers well-placed Spring themed tunes. “It’s Anybody’s Spring,” the title track, begins the journey. Roberts and Udolf take the lead, Roberts creates an ethereal entrance, that sets the mood quite nicely, the addition of S, Bailey, and Tana allow the listener to hear the supportive group-sound form. Roberts has a strong sense of swing in her phrasing and augmented by this team of professionals, the depth is rooted with even more wisdom. Each member of the ensemble clearly knows the tradition, yet keeps it freshened enough to not be just another swing album. Bailey’s phrasing and unfolding during her solo adds lilt and interest, while exploring breathtaking harmonic concepts on her arch-top guitar.
“Joy Spring,” serves up a healthy dose of exploration. This tune features Roberts and S collaborating in a stripped-down sound of voice and bass, in the opening – it is during this naked section you hear the truest mastery of both musicians. The loping tempo gives Roberts ample room to push and play the melody, yet firmly exhibiting be-bop phrasing. Additionally, Roberts traverses into a vocalese that displays her ingenuity, and prowess. The vocalese is Roberts original lyrics, set to a melody that was inspired by Clifford Brown’s solo on his 1954 album, Clifford Brown/Max Roach. Tana and S lock tightly creating an interesting textural canvas for Roberts to paint upon, which further exhibits steadfast swinging, and creative superfluities of this classic melody.
I hate to compare vocalist to other vocalist, but there is a bit of Irene Kral vibe on “They Say It’s Spring,” I ended up feeling better about it, when I ready through her bio again and it stated Kral was an inspiration for her. The tune offers a mid-tempo feel, that hangs of the backside of the swing, giving it a breezy feel. Udolf comps with gentle ideas; that don’t over power the vocalist, which is very refreshing. Roberts is elegant, and the tune travels along with a brightness that is simply put; enjoyable to the fullest.
“Lady Bird” features Roberts in a duet setting again, but this time with drummer Tana. She nails it, in full command of the melody, before being joined in a layered approach by S, and then Bailey. Roberts proves she is a part of the instrumentation, not just the lead vocals.
What is so inviting about Anybody’s Spring is the ease of how it swings, the clarity of ideas by Roberts and the unapologetic swinging nature of the backing ensemble. They all make it seem so easy, that the release could be mistaken for another swing album on the market. That would be a misrepresentation, the key to the true gem in this release, is the subtly, the development of each melody and the clear and present chemistry of the players that deceivingly make what they are doing look easy. I encourage you to dig deeper into the album, and listen a few times over – it is then it will hit you. This is a swing album light years ahead of many CDs in the marketplace, at this time. Not to sound cliché, but Roberts bloom continues to blossom and become more beautiful with each release in her discography. Well worth the time, but do take the time and don’t rush through it as you will miss the beauty. Stop and smell the Spring.