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BWW CD Reviews: I'VE BEEN PLAYED: ALYSHA UMPHRESS SWINGS JEFF BLUMENKRANTZ is Effervescing and Lovely

Cover art courtesy of Yellow Sound Label.

Alysha Umphress, currently dazzling Broadway theatergoers as the taxi driving Hildy in the revival of On The Town, is giving audiences the world over a reason to rejoice in her talent. I was luckily enough to see On The Town in late November, and I instantly fell in love with her plucky bravado and infectiously charismatic performance. That same energy and passion for performance is pristinely captured on Yellow Sound Label's I'VE BEEN PLAYED: ALYSHA UMPHRESS SWINGS JEFF BLUMENKRANTZ, making this album a sure-fire toe-tapping dazzler.

Jeff Blumenkrantz first met Alysha Umphress at the 2006 Raw Impressions Musical Theatre Festival, and she immediately became "one of [his] muses." Together, they recorded the album while she was in rehearsals for On The Town, and the end product is a swinging jazz compilation of mostly original music. Some of which you may recognize from places like SUBMISSIONS ONLY, as the track "Two Cents" was featured in the fifth episode of the second season and "Steal Away" was featured in sixth episode of the third season.

Whether you've heard them before or not, each of Jeff Blumenkrantz's original compositions and his arrangements of classics will have you dancing around your living room, snapping your fingers on your daily commutes, and grinning from ear to ear. His up-tempo and upbeat music radiates happiness and joy, filling the soul and heart with mirthful warmth. He also lends his own vocals to a handful of songs, pairing nicely with Alysha Umphress as well. Naturally, the album isn't wholly upbeat music, and his ballads, especially as sung by Alysha Umphress, are intoxicating. The musicality featured on these tracks is supple and sublimely gorgeous.

The star of the album is Alysha Umphress' wondrous and sparkling alto instrument. Across the recording her voice is sweet, landing on each pitch with a balanced and soft caress. She truly delights on each track, whether she has us bouncing along with her lively and energetic performances on numbers like "I Don't Need Anything But You" (Charles Strouse/Martin Charnin) or "Celebrate" (Jeff Blemnbrantz). Additionally, Alysha Umphress croons with devastating perfection on the stirring jazzy ballads on the disc. She makes songs like "Why Can't I Kiss You" (Blumenkrantz), "I've Been Played" (Blumenkrantz), "Spring Is Here" (Richard Rodgers/Lorenz Hart), "Spring Can Really Hang You Up The Most" (Tommy Wolf/Fran Landesman), and "Man in the Moon" (Blumenkrantz) simultaneously stunning and unforgettable.

With Alysha Umphress stealing the show as Hildy in On The Town, the jazzy throwback aural landscape of this album couldn't be more time appropriate. Since you'll have to wait until March 3, 2015 to get your hands on PS Classic's highly anticipated On The Town (New Broadway Cast Recording), let this at times effervescing and always lovely album scratch your itch for music that sounds as if it sprung from the pre-World War II era of 1940s nightclubs.

Yellow Sound Label released I'VE BEEN PLAYED: ALYSHA UMPHRESS SWINGS JEFF BLUMENKRANTZ both digitally and physically on January 6, 2015. The record can be purchased from iTunes, Amazon, and elsewhere music is sold.

For information about other theatrical recording releases, click here.


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From This Author - David Clarke

David Clarke has had a lifelong love and passion for the performing arts, and has been writing about theatre both locally and nationally for years. He joined BroadwayWorld.com running their read more about this author)


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