With a Song in My Heart - Gill Manly - The Jazz Breakfast

Jazz singing is so much more difficult than many of the new jazz singers believe. It's so exposing, for a start - there is no external instrument to hide behind, no place to hide.

One note hit not quite in the centre, one shaky rhythmic moment, one verse which doesn't quite convince the listener... it's just so easy to fall.

Have you ever heard of Gill Manly? Nope, neither had I. I think we might be excused our ignorance as this is her first recording in over a decade and even before then she was working mostly locally in London.

For a while she turned to a spiritual quest, convinced her singing career was behind her. She picked up the mic again two years ago and this is very much the work of an artist given a much valued and strongly embraced second chance.

It's inspired by Ella and there are moments when an individual sample, subjected to a voice pattern test, might throw up an uncanny similarity in phrasing and timbre. To be able to approach the vocal near-perfection of the great Ms Fitzgerald is an achievement in itself. But this is certainly not to suggest that Gill Manly is an imitator for nothing could be further from the truth.

It's truly remarkable and truly inspiring to hear a "new" singer who is this good.

The songs are mostly familiar ones - September Song, Spring Can Really Hang You Up The Most, Midnight Sun, Lush Life - but the insights Gill gives, both to their melodic and harmonic content, and to their lyrical meaning are fresh and original.

She is just as comfortable at quicker, swinging paces as in slow ballads, and her vocal technique is both impeccable and apparently effortlessly delivered.

She has a strong trio behind her, led on piano by Simon Wallace, Guy Barker adds some tasty trumpet and Mark Murphy pops in for a duet.

I've searched this disc for some failure, some fall from grace, but I have searched in vain. It's as near perfection as we humans can manage.

The Jazz Breakfast
10 February 2009