After the success of her 2018 album Jazz Just Wants To Have Fun (click on title for review) it would have been easy for vocalist Beverley Beirne to put out a follow-up album in the same style, but she has chosen not to and for that she should be applauded. The only track on Dream Dancer that relates to the previous album release stylistically is ‘Let’s Dance’, the David Bowie number from 1983. Here it is played as a Samba, which I really enjoyed – as I did Beverley’s phrasing and vocal range. Rob Hughes plays some wonderful lines on sax, something I am sure Bowie would have appreciated.
The album starts with Irving Berlin’s 1936 ‘Let’s Face the Music and Dance’, the tempo is brisk with the piano of Sam Watts and drums of Ben Brown supporting the vocalist before that sax of Rob Hughes kicks in and lifts the tune to another level. I played this track on Sounds Like Jazz and the first comment from my co-host Maurie Kemp was “terrific arrangement” and that is where the overriding strength of this album lies: the arrangements by Beverley Beirne and Sam Watts. This is followed by a wonderful swinging number in ‘Weaver of Dreams. The number was written in 1951 and this version fits very well with that golden age of jazz music. There are some great bass lines on this track from Flo Moore, a player I have admired since first hearing her live at the Marsden Jazz Festival three years ago.
‘Now We’re Just Friends’ is the first of two Duncan Lamont tunes that feature on this album. This is a beautifully sung break-up tune full of regret. The sax, played by Duncan, has a wistful, poignant quality to it that emphasises the meaning of the lyric without overstating it and Beverley’s delivery is so real it would be easy to believe that she was singing from personal experience. ‘Daydream’ gives us a delightful jazz waltz and once again shows off Beverley’s vocal range. Sam Watts provides a beautiful accompaniment as well as glorious solo spot.
‘Temptation’ opens with vocal and percussion before filling out with the sound of the piano. I felt that Beverley was singing at the bottom end of her vocal range but at no point did she lose control. The flute of Rob Hughes combined with the relaxed rhythmic drive gave a North African feel to the tune. This is a delightful track with interesting variations in dynamics. The following track is ‘Fascinating Rhythm/Thou Swell’, a clever amalgamation of two well-known tunes. The arrangement here is sublime, the tempo brisk, great bass lines and a wonderful trade section between a scatting Beverley Beirne and saxophonist Rob Hughes: a potential outstanding track number. But then along comes ‘Bill’.
‘Bill’ is a Show Boat number with a great flute solo supported by a constant Sam Watts at the piano. This is another good example of bringing the right voice to the right tune with the right musicians in support: this track made me smile – and that is all that really needs to be said. Track nine of the album brought out the nostalgia trip with the tune synonymous with the children’s TV programme Mr Ben: ‘Old Brazil’ – the tune and lyrics were written by Duncan Lamont. With Romero Lubambo on guitar and Cyro Baptista providing Latin percussion imagining yourself in ‘Old Brazil’ is not difficult. Duncan plays sax on this tune and sounds in fine form playing with a smile.
‘Winter Moon’ is not a tune I am familiar with, but I did enjoy the atmospherics created by the openness of the performance. When the sax is brought in the feel of the piece changes and there is a drama as the vocals and sax rise and soar before dropping back and releasing the developed tension. You can hear this track via the video shown below, which features the shadow puppet work of Anna Ingleby.
‘Dream Dancing’ opens with piano and voice and once again we are transported back to the great jazz age of the forties and fifties. The bass playing of Flo Moore and drums of Ben Brown anchor this performance and allow the piano of Sam Watts to play off the vocals of Beverley Beirne before Rob Hughes lifts the overall effect with a terrific solo. There is a wonderful interaction between the players here that only really comes from a band that know each other well. The album is brought to a close with ‘Pieces of Dreams’, written by Michael Legrand. This is a delightfully delivered duet between pianist Sam Watts and vocalist Beverley Beirne and a fitting end to a stylistically varied album.
Dream Dancer is a very different album to Jazz Just Wants To Have Fun in terms of the music chosen to make up the album, but the arranging skills of Beverley Beirne and Sam Watts standout on both. I very much enjoyed this album with its variation in musical style, tempo, and dynamics. Well known tunes are given a fresh interpretation that give them a contemporary feel while tunes like ‘Bill’ bring lesser-known melodies to the fore. Jazz Just Wants To Have Fun may have brought Beverley Beirne to the attention of an audience not familiar with Jazz music; Dream Dancer emphasises why she is considered by many to be one of the leading vocalists in British jazz.
Beverley Beirne – vocals; Sam Watts – piano; Flo Moore – bass; Ben Brown – drums/percussion/conga; Rob Hughes – sax/flute.
* Duncan Lamont on saxophone
** Jason Miles on Fender Rhodes
*** Strings by Jason Miles
**** Jason Miles on Hammond B3
***** Duncan Lamont saxophone, Romero Lubambo guitar, Cyro Baptista percussion, strings by Jason Miles
Dream Dancer was produced by Jason Miles
1. Let’s Face the Music and Dance 2. Weaver of Dreams 3. Now We’re Just Friends * 4. Let’s Dance ** 5. Daydream 6. Temptation *** 7. Fascinating Rhythm/Thou Swell **** 8. Bill 9. Old Brazil **** 10 Winter Moon 11. Dream Dancing 12 Pieces of Dreams.