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BWW CD Review: Linda Lavin Love Notes Is A Musical Epistle Of Ardent Artistry

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BWW CD Review: Linda Lavin Love Notes Is A Musical Epistle Of Ardent Artistry

Of late, fans of Linda Lavin, of Billy Stritch, or of "Lavitch" together have been enjoying a series of streaming, online Living Room Concerts on Facebook Live that the longtime friends and musically matched in heaven colleagues have been conducting. Often in these concerts, there is mention of the new Linda Lavin CD Love Notes - and well there should be because it is one of the happier things that has happened to the world recently. Ms. Lavin, whose life as an actor has included a strong relationship with music, has created a CD that can be listened to while jubilantly dancing around the kitchen during the making of dinner, or while relaxing after the consumption of said dinner, alone, snuggling with your pooch, or dancing with your main squeeze. In twelve sumptuous, sexy, swingy, and sultry tracks Lavin and Stritch & co. provide a musical cycle of songs that rival that DVR'd television program awaiting your viewing attention.

The wide range of compositions on Love Notes covers songwriters from Cole Porter to Jobim, from Peggy Lee to Glenn Frey, but the era in which the songs were first created matters not when the music and lyrics are left in the more than capable hands of Ms. Lavin and Mr.Stritch (musical director, arranger, pianist, and duet partner). Stritch has taken songs that most people know and recreated them in a manner that gives Lavin an opportunity to embody them as a new story being presented for the first time. Like a jazz virtuosa scientifically crossed with a pop singer, Linda Lavin imbues peppy and jaunty arrangements of "I Wish I Were In Love Again" and "Just Squeeze Me" with vocal visuals that read like a film of memory, then she turns the table on the listener with a youthful sound and wizened soulfulness on "Stars Would Fall" and the CD's surprise cut, Steely Dan's "Black Cow," both songs that stand out as choices one would not expect from an actor known for their work in musical theater. This is Linda Lavin at her vocal best, most adventurous, and artistically aggressive. Here is a singer embarking on a new sound and style, one content with their past journey and intent on a new one, an admirable vision for an artist when it can become easy to relax into a pattern. The mere fact that Linda Lavin has interwoven classics from The Great American Songbook with pop songs from the '70s and songs being written today ("Stars Would Fall" is penned by Lavin's producer, Wayne Haun) is proof enough that she has cast her vision in a wide net of exploration reminiscent of the time disco diva Tina Charles put a rock and roll version of Amazing Grace on her album of dance music. It makes for a refreshingly nuanced and varied romp through the history of music, one that covers 83 years from 1930's "I Got Rhythm" to Mr. Haun's 2013 release of "Stars Would Fall," but this CD is far from a history lesson - it's just an example of how an audience can benefit from a singer's eclectic musical tastes, to say nothing of Lavin's taste in partnerships.

The business of show is filled professional marriages that yield great artistic results and Lavin and Stritch have always had that special quality to their work, like Lanford Wilson and Conchata Ferrell, like Julie Wilson and Billy Roy, like Barbra Streisand and The Bergmans, and on Love Notes Mr. Stritch creates arrangements that fit Ms. Lavin like a purple cushion upon which she may set her golden vocal cords. Rather than make the unfortunate choice many artists make of singing the songs the way they (and we) have always heard them, the Lavitch team works closely together to bring new stories to their audience, clearly demonstrating that they view these songs as an actor views a monologue, allowing their life experiences to inform the delivery of that monologue, thus making each recorded story a personal illumination of life journeys that listeners can either apply to their own paths or use to broaden their emotional experiences as one would an audiobook or cinematic work. Particularly enjoyable are all of the medleys Billy creates (or, as the young 'uns would say, "Mash-Ups") for Linda - four of them, to be exact, and each one these tracks gives greedy listeners an opportunity to hear Linda Lavin style two different songs, making the CD 16 songs for the price of 12 - a bounty of chapters to enjoy, especially when Lavin's upbeat performances are so in the pocket as to actually instill in your mind an impression of not only her joy but of her actual smile, inside of the vocal quality. And in the balladic offerings, Linda Lavin reminds us once more that she was born to entertain, to communicate, emote and inspire, as she presents a blissful balance of musicality and interpretation, particularly on "I Can't Tell You Why/I Walk A Little Faster" and "You Must Believe In Spring". If one song from the album could be pointed to as an example of the quality of Love Notes, this writer would pick "Chega de Saudade," which brings all the elements of the Lavitch partnership into one straight-up sassy, sophisticated, jazzy, enticing musical entree smack dab in the middle of a musical feast all on one forty-minute CD.

Would that it was fifty, but it's all so choice that forty will do just fine.

Linda Lavin Love Notes is produced by Wayne Haun & Billy Stritch and features Aaron Weinstein (violin/mandolin), Tom Hubbard (bass), Jeff Barone (guitar), Daniel Glass (drums), Joel Key (banjo) and photography by Bill Westmoreland. Love Notes is on Club44 Records and is available on iTunes and Amazon


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From This Author Stephen Mosher