Picks and Pans Review: At Home

updated 07/13/1987 AT 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 07/13/1987 AT 01:00 AM EDT

Janis Siegel

Siegel is part of Manhattan Transfer, but on this bright, crisp solo album she moves up one or two levels above her group's corporate brand of nostalgia pop. She sings with great verve and an adventuresome spirit, going after a lot of tough vocal turns and negotiating most of them with musicality to spare. It's fitting, in fact, that Jon Hendricks wrote the lyrics to one of the tunes on the album, From Vienna With Love; Siegel often sounds like Annie Ross, Hendricks' old trio mate in Lambert, Hendricks and Ross, the '50s jazz singers who are the musical ancestors of Manhattan Transfer. While this album's producer, Steven Miller, is best known for working on the often oatmealy, textureless Windham Hill label, he kept this project fully charged. The backup musicians, who seem enthusiastically engaged in the project, include saxophonists David Sanborn and Branford Marsalis, trumpeter Lou Soloff and keyboardist Richard Tee. The songs are a creatively mixed bunch. There is Marvin Gaye's Trouble Man, to which Siegel adds real sizzle. The intriguing, reflective Small Day Tomorrow is a quiet tune by Bob Dorough and Fran Landesman. And among the selection of Swing Era novelties is Johnny Mercer's clever Bob White. Previously recorded with delightful results by such performers as Mildred Bailey and Mercer himself with Bobby Darin, the song spins lightly around the premise of rating the bobwhite's singing ability. (Mercer finds rhymes for parakeet, albatross, jackdaw and whooping crane and notes, "The opinion of the jughead grouse/ Is, you'll play to an empty house.") The mood, with Marsalis bubbling away on soprano sax, suggests that everyone is out to have a good time. More records ought to stick to that premise as admirably as this one does. (Atlantic)

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