BWW CD Review: FINDING BEAUTY Is Easy With Josephine Sanges Leading The Way
Once in a while comes a moment so special that you know you will remember it, every detail of it, forever. It is when you hear a singer for the first time, and it doesn't happen every day. Nancy LaMott singing "My Foolish Heart" or Linda Purl crooning "A House is Not a Home" - maybe it was when you heard Peggy Lee performing "Me and My Shadow" or Carmen McRae doing "The Shadow of Your Smile." Whatever the example, whoever the singer, that moment exists for each of us, and it lasts a lifetime.
That's Josephine Sanges.
After pressing play on Ms. Sanges' CD "FINDING BEAUTY" the first 60 seconds of the title track will be spent in wonder as a truly beautiful, authentically singular voice informs the listener that they have not only made the right choice with their selection, but they have brought into their reality a singer with whom they will develop an ongoing relationship. Finding Beauty is an extremely articulate exploration of the harmonious experience available to music lovers with sophisticated styles and impeccable taste, and why not? After all, Finding Beauty is a tribute to Ann Hampton Callaway, the Mistress of sophistication and taste - but not everyone can do a musical tribute to Ann Hampton Callaway, and not everyone should. AHC is in a class all her own, one that has made her one of the icons of the industry, one of the crown jewels of jazz and cabaret. Well, Josephine Sanges is the unquestionable choice for an Ann Hampton Callaway tribute, be it CD or show - and Finding Beauty is the companion piece to Sanges' 2016 cabaret show, so some lucky people have had the pleasure of seeing Sanges' tribute to AHC live and then hearing it captured, beautifully, on one of the most generous discs available, clocking in at 65 minutes and 18 tracks.
In Finding Beauty, Ms. Sanges has the potential of not only paying tribute to Ann Hampton Callaway but of paying tribute to her teachers, coaches, and mentors over the years. With an album like this, it all lies in the singer's ability to balance their tribute work with their individual style, which is precisely what Sanges does by not copying AHC, by working with musical director John M. Cook to create arrangements that break free of the originals, that pay homage to Callaway, that show the listener the ways Callaway's work has informed Sanges, and that show that Sanges stands on her own. Cook and Sanges succeed on all counts, and then some, balancing the lyrical and romantic ballads for which AHC is known, like "Bring Back Romance" and "I Gaze In Your Eyes," with those famous frenetic and intricate jazz stylings of numbers like "Twisted" and "Hip To Be Happy." Sanges takes a musical journey so thrilling and complete as to leave one, occasionally, breathless as a person fresh off of a speedy trip through the Hollywood Hills. To say that one will run a full gamut of emotions is a happy and accurate appraisal of Finding Beauty, but it is not a far reach to consider that that is rather what Sanges and co. had in mind when they planned this excursion, one where Josephine makes the wise choice of never letting artistic vocal stylings get in the way of the composers' intentions. Often when a singer of jazz tries on for size a famous melody, the liberties taken with the tune render the song unrecognizable. Sanges shows her artistry on numbers like "Lullaby of Birdland," "That Old Black Magic," and "Ding Dong The Witch Is Dead" without, once, making alterations to the melodic line so extreme as to wipe clean from the memory a song that one loves, and in the case of "How High The Moon," Josephine Sanges makes the happy, the blissful, the perfect choice in steering clear of the Les Paul arrangement that everyone in the world sings. Audible sigh.
One might think that a singer is tackling a big mountain when approaching the works of Ann Hampton Callaway but Sanges isn't just covering AHC's work here, she takes on Streisand, too, and it should be no surprise that she scores. Covering the Streisand-Brolin wedding song composed by Callaway, "I've Dreamed of You," Sanges acquits herself sweetly and gently of the two women who have, previously, inhabited the tune, showing that her voice and talent may be newer to some listeners, but both are definitely worthy of attention, rich and replete with color and nuance, interpretation and technique. It is a lush and lavish vocal gift that Josephine Sanges shares with her listeners through Mr. Cook's arrangements and Ms. Callaway's inspiring precedent. The entire CD is one shining example after another of the skills that make Sanges one of the cabaret industry's welcome new voices on the scene, growing in popularity with every artistic outing, either in person or in the recording studio.
Josephine Sanges Finding Beauty is a 2017 release on the CD Baby label and is available on iTunes, Amazon, Spotify, Apple Music, and Youtube Music