New albums from Jess Lee, English jazz musicians Claire Martin and Ray Gelato and Penang-born pianist Dennis Lee

Drama is good when it comes to music. Malaysian singer Jess Lee's previous album featured Cliff To Heaven, a roller-coaster ride of a track which soared and plunged to thrilling effect.

There is an attempt to capture the turbulent emotions of that stronger hit with Snowstorm. She seems to be throwing caution to the wind as she sings: "Your love is like a snowstorm/I don't mind losing everything."

The ballads here, such as Chain Of Love and Nostalgia, leave a deeper impression than the faster- paced, more light-hearted tracks.

It has to be said, though, that listening to Lee on disc does not quite do her stunning pipes justice.



    Jess Lee

    Warner Music Taiwan

    3/5 stars

I still remember her powerhouse performance of Cliff To Heaven at the Singapore Hit Awards in 2014, one which stood out impressively from the pack.

It is not for nothing that she was the winner of the seventh season of singing competition One Million Star (2010 to 2011). Hopefully, she will get to hold her own gig here soon and sing up a storm.

Boon Chan

English jazz tradition is a small but hardy offshoot and, once in a while, there will be a surprising bloom that takes you by surprise.

  • JAZZ


    Claire Martin and Ray Gelato

    Linn Records

    4/5 stars

This duet album from English musicians, singer Claire Martin and singer/saxophonist Ray Gelato, is one such unexpected pleasure.

Martin has a mellow mezzo she wields with light confidence, while Gelato's singing recalls Tony Bennett's big belting holler in terms of timbre and delivery, except without the evident strain that has tainted Bennett's recent efforts.

The programme of standards sticks mostly to swing, with a barnstorming detour into bebop with a tongue-twisting take on Ornithology.

What lifts the songs are the effervescent delivery and smart arrangements. The pop trifle All I Do Is Dream Of You is driven by Sebastian de Krom's sturdy four- four time on the drums and pianist David Newton's melodic scribbling.

The best duets are the old chestnuts, C'est Si Bon! and Come Dance With Me, where the vocal exchanges are like relaxed banter between old friends, and Gelato willingly harmonises with Martin's purer lines.

A swinging charmer that lives up to the promise in the album's title.

Ong Sor Fern

It has been a long time since Penang- born pianist Dennis Lee last made a solo recording. His all-Szymanowski recital disc on the Hyperion/Helios label from 1990 was a landmark as it ushered in a new era of rethinking and recording of the 20th-century Polish composer's music.



    Dennis Lee, piano

    ICSM Records

    4.5/5 stars

But he enters a crowded field with this first volume of piano music by Frenchman Claude Debussy (1862- 1918). A most satisfying primer for listeners new to his music, it includes "belle epoque" works alongside his trademark impressionism.

Particularly astute is the programming of Estampes (Imprints, 1903) alongside Images Oubliees (Forgotten Images, 1894), the latter published as recently as 1977. Jardins Sous La Pluie (Gardens In The Rain), the final piece of Estampes and its counterpart quote the nursery song Nous N'irons Plus Au Bois (We Go No More In The Woods), which comes across differently in each guise.

The waltz La Plus Que Lente (Slower Than Slow) and Two Arabesques are elegantly performed, contrasting with the shimmering textures in Reflets Dans L'eau (Reflections On The Water) from the First Book of Images and L'Isle Joyeuse (The Joyous Isle). The recorded sound is warm and spacious, with Lee's sensitivity and virtuosity being well served.

Chang Tou Liang

The crossover look of this album by American-Japanese violinist Anne Akiko Meyers is a canny marketing ploy. Fortunately, there is nothing cheesy in her clever juxtapositions, combining a serious 20th-century violin concerto with arrangements of film music.



    Anne Akiko Meyers, violin

    London Symphony Orchestra/Keith Lockhart


    4.5/5 stars

It opens with Leonard Bernstein's de facto violin concerto, the Serenade inspired by Plato's Symposium, a treatise on the subject of love. Its five connected movements find a rare blend of lyricism and jazzy syncopations that almost approaches the spirit of his masterpiece, the West Side Story musical.

Seven composers were commissioned to arrange 10 popular movie themes and show tunes, including Ennio Morricone's Cinema Paradiso, George Gershwin's Summertime, Leigh Harline's When You Wish Upon A Star, David Raksin's Laura and Bernstein's Somewhere.

The arrangements are lush and sumptuous, even cheeky, such as the appropriation of Tchaikovsky's Violin Concerto in Matthew Naughtin's take on Jacob Gade's Tango Jalousie. Meyers plays with passion and her luscious tone light up this stimulating and entertaining anthology.

Chang Tou Liang

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 15, 2016, with the headline 'Hot Tracks'. Print Edition | Subscribe