Rachel Caswell: You Be The Jazz Judge

2nd November 2018

Title: We’re All in the Dance

Label: Turtle Ridge

A selection of jazz-centred and more contemporary fare, Caswell appears to know her subject, serving as an Adjunct Lecturer in Music at Indiana University where she teaches jazz history courses as well as hosting jazz-related masterclasses and clinics at numerous colleges and universities nationwide. She was also a judge and clinician at the University of New Hampshire for the 2011 Clark Terry Jazz Festival, the 2013 Boise State University Vocal Jazz Festival and multiple years at the Bloomington Jazz Festival.

Rachel Caswell: You Be The Judge

On this new album, arranged by Dave Stryker (and Caswell on two of the tracks), she is accompanied by a top notch backing band, including Johnathan Blake on drums, Fabian Almazan on keys and Linda May Han Oh on bass.

Rachel Caswell: You Be The Judge

But can she sing? She ain’t bad. I wouldn’t put her voice up there with the greats, she hasn’t got a unique gift that will set her apart from a host of middling competitors and she doesn’t feature a stand-out technique that will have startled fingers pointing. Drown in My Own Tears is a little insipid, for example. What she does have, though, is an appreciation of the material on hand, mixing vocalisations with scat. So what she gives you is a shared love and that’s just as important, if not more to be honest. 

Listening to this album is like sharing a hobby with a fellow fan. So you’re with Caswell all the way on this album. There’s no point in singing jazz with a best voice on the planet if that singer has no insight or understanding of the lyric. Caswell gives you that which means that you soon forget her vocal failings and you go along for the ride. Her enthusiasm ropes you in so that Two for the Road eases along nicely, Devil May Care is a constructive success and I Didn’t Know What Time it Was is a clever arrangement. 

And that’s where Cresswell succeeds, when she approaches a song from a technical angle, playing with tempo and arrangement. Give the album a spin, there’s plenty of pleasant moments here. 

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