review by Bruce Crowther

Singing professionally since 1994, in the past decade Wolper has built a very good reputation mainly in the New York area. In 1998, the year of her first CD, she met up with guitarist Affif and bassist Filiano and the three began working together. The resulting trio is much more than either singer with accompaniment, or band with singer; its is a cooperative trio of which every member is an equal part. One result of this is a strong sense of unity and mutual understanding.

Wolper has a fluid and attractive vocal sound and a pleasing low-key approach. Rather than impose herself upon the songs she selects, she enters into them, drawing subtle nuances from the lyrics, and shaping the vocal lines into jazz performances. The arrangements are Wolper's own, and their careful understatement allows all the musicians the freedom to make their individual mark within the overall framework of the performance. Guitarist and bassist play with great flair and swing and their solos are imaginative.

The song selection is good, with nothing that is overused. Even familiar ones, like Rodgers and Hart's "Dancing On The Ceiling" and Dietz and Schwartz's "You And The Night And The Music" are given new looks; the former relaxed and slinky, the latter with suggestions of a Middle Eastern or North African atmosphere. Among the other songs is Connie and Arnold Miller's "Night Time Was My Mother," which appears to have been recorded only by June Christy with Pete Rugolo in 1958, and it is good to be able to welcome it back into the fold. Also good are Wolper's own compositions, "Gray, Not Blue," "Not Sleeping In Your Arms" and "Rendezvous In Providence," the latter using D. Nurkse's poem; none of these is makeweight music and all are worthy of the attention of other singers.

On the tracks where the core trio is joined by drummers Victor Lewis or Jamey Haddad the already swinging band gains even more rhythmic impetus, and the other guests, trumpeter Frank London and flautist Lou Marini, take their solo spots with flair.

Thoroughly entertaining and musicianly, this CD should appeal not only to many hardcore jazzers but also to those Friends of Good Songs who like their familiar fare gently spiced. Very good notes by Scott Yanow and first rate sound round out a warmly recommended set. This label is an offshoot of Berlin-based Be1Two Records and "The Small Hours" is its first release.

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