Barbara Hannigan & Ludwig Orchestra - Dance With Me - The Arts Fuse

Try though they might, precious few trained singers can do justice to jazz, Broadway, and more popular idioms. The Canadian soprano Barbara Hannigan is just such a one, though, as her new album with the equally versatile Ludwig Orchestra, Dance With Me, demonstrates.

To be sure, theirs is an enchantingly off-beat program, encompassing music by Edward Elgar, Glenn Miller, Barry Manilow, the French-Brazilian band Kaoma, and others. And yet it’s played and sung with the same attention to rhythmic detail, color, and verve that one’s familiar with from the pairing’s traversals of Berg, Gershwin, and Stravinsky.

Hannigan is a formidable chanteuse, singing the disc’s four songs with impeccable diction, unobtrusive vibrato, an excellent sense of character, and honeyed tone – not to mention spades of charm. She brings an attractive elegance to Miller’s “Moonlight Serenade” as well as shapely turns of color in Kurt Weill’s “Youkali.”

Bill Elliott’s fetching arrangement of Lerner & Loewe’s “I Could Have Danced All Night” unfolds trippingly while the soprano clearly has a blast navigating the acrobatics of Green & Irwin’s ridiculously catchy “Fluffy Ruffles.” The last, in Bill Cahn’s raucous arrangement, also brilliantly showcases Ludwig percussionist Niels Meliefste’s formidable xylophone playing.

As for the rest of the ensemble, which has evidently moonlighted as a dance band for some years now, they prove as comfortable with the jiving syncopations of “In the Mood” as they do with the playful turns of “Copacabana” and Kaoma’s 1989 hit, “Lambada.”

The Arts Fuse
20 March 2022