REVIEW: Linda Lavin – Love Notes

Recording CoverAlthough Linda Lavin has been singing for as long as she's been acting – her Broadway debut was in the ensemble of A Family Affair, and shortly thereafter she introduced the most memorable songs in The Mad Show and It's A Bird, It's A Plane, It's Superman – I suspect most of us think of her as an actor who sings than a singer qua singer. Her voice has always been more distinctive than distinguished, but her ability to put across a number is elevated by superb acting chops and comedic ability. That said, this album is a jazz record, not a cabaret act, so expect something closer to Ella Fitzgerald (minus the scatting) than Julie Wilson.

Releasing a jazz rectial disc at age 82 might have taken some chutzpah, but that is a quality Lavin has never lacked. Benefitting from collaboration with Billy Stritch (producer, pianist, and on one track, duet partner), the chutzpah pays off. Look, I grew up watching Alice in reruns, and at a moment in history where everything is terrifying, a recording of my tv mom singing standards is a welcome security blanket when we most need one.

Lavin's voice is in remarkably good shape, and the selections she's chosen showcase her range. Opening with a kittenish Cole Porter medley (combining "I've Got My Eyes On You" with "You Do Something To Me"), Lavin gives us breezey ("I Wish I Were In Love Again"), playful ("Ace in the Hole/Rap Tap on Wood," her duet with Stritch), wistful ("You Must Believe In Spring") and full-out swingin' ("How High the Moon"). Buoyed by as fine a jazz combo as you'll find (featuring Aaron Weinstein on violin and mandolin, Tom Hubbard on bass, Jeff Barone on guitar, and Daniel Glass on drums in addition to Stritch on keys), Lavin benefits from arrangements that are simultaneously fresh and classic.

While I appreciate the studio-perfect sound of the release, I can't help wondering if the experience would have been sweeter with a live album, giving us a taste of Lavin's rapport with an audience. We can only hope that on the other side of this pandemic, Lavin and Stritch will return to Birdland to give us the opportunity to experience that in person. Certainly after hearing this album, I'll be first in line for tickets.


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