For the first time ever I stepped foot in The View Cucina Friday night, and as soon as I walked in I thought, why haven’t I come here before? A lounge-y kind of cocktail-y vibe quickly came over me, to the point where I half-expected Dean Martin or Julie London to come peeking out from behind a corner.
What enhanced the vibe was the music, which seemed to fit the space and the ambience so well you mighta thought the music was created first and then the room was designed to complement that. On guitar was Brian Lovely, who along with a host of other musical pursuits performs every Wednesday at Sitwell’s with the Faux Frenchmen. As with that ensemble, Lovely combined jazz with a gypsy style, and he blended in perfectly with a female vocalist who was unfamiliar to me. After one song (a cool rendition of a Dean Martin’s “Sway”) the band went on break, whereupon I learned that she was Annette Shepherd, who I’d read about in cyberspace but never heard before. While I was able to hear another set, and enjoyed it (especially the cover of Leonard Cohen’s “Dance Me to the End of Love”), I was disappointed to learn that I missed, in the previous set, her take on “Walk Like an Egyptian.”
Knowing that she had recorded my nearly favorite song—not, by a mile, your typical fare for such a jazzy ensemble—was enough to convince me that I needed to buy Annette’s new CD, I Only Have Eyes for You, which I listened to when I got home. As a writer for The Absolute Sound, I once embarked on a feature article that was an overview of up and coming female jazz vocalists. My research involved asking record company marketing reps from round the world to send me CDs by vocalists on their labels, and by journey’s end I’d sifted through piles of new recordings. Some were great, some were horrible, and most were in between.
None of those CDs did a better job of mixing styles in a way that kept the CD fresh from beginning to end than I Only Have Eyes for You. It begins with a straightforward jazz version of the jazz standard, “I Remember You,” and although the tempo’s a little sped up, the title track is also a nice straightforward jazz performance. At times there’s more of a European flair, as you might expect from title like “Veinte Anos” and “La Vie En Rose.” The CD also has a sense of humor, as evidenced by the Bob Dorough gem, “I’m Hip” and the aforementioned “Walk Like an Egyptian,” where the band—which includes some colorful improve from a band that includes Brian Lovely and another Faux Frenchmen member, violinist Paul Patterson—takes off on a magic carpet ride; I can almost see the foreign types with their hookah pipes.
Good song selection, thoughtful arrangements, and a willingness to take chances (she serves up “Autumn Leaves” with a twist, but it works) distinguish I Only Have Eyes for You. Oh, and Annette’s singing is spot-on throughout: natural, unforced, and free of the histrionics that in the wrong hands can make jazz singing a painful experience. I found out during the break that, after years of performing there, this was to be her last night at The View Cucina, which only underscores the notion that Jeff Wilson finds out about cool things right as they’re about to end…but I have a hunch that Annette Shepherd will soon find a regular gig in another perfect place. You can hear I Only Have Eyes for You on soundloud – here’s the link:
Also, check out her website, www.annetteshepherd.com/
I also wanted to pass along that Gaslight Property just had a great 2 bedroom apartment open up in the highly sought-after Clifton Manor building, in the heart & soul of the Gaslight District, at 3654 Middleton. It’s a nice stroll to Ludlow Avenue, Clifton Cultural Arts Center, Fairview German Language School, and Mt. Storm Park. It has beautiful hardwood floors, and gets a ton of sunlight. Call 513.861.6000 to schedule a tour.