Thursday, February 4, 2010

Claudia Schmidt -- Promising Sky

Promising Sky
Claudia Schmidt

I first heard Claudia Schmidt more than 30 years ago. She struck me, back in the late-‘70s, as one of those people who is just inherently musical as she’d move, seemingly effortlessly from a Michael Smith song, to a blues standard, to a traditional ballad sung a cappella. Listening to her records over the years – it’s probably 20 years or so since I’ve seen her live – I’ve not changed my mind about that musicality.

Although she came out of the folk scene, and has kept one of her feet firmly planted there, in recent years Claudia has simultaneously devoted herself to jazz. Several of the CDs that she’s released recently have been fine jazz efforts while others have remained in the folk vein.

Promising Sky, Claudia’s new album, blends her folk and jazz influences and adds some blues and world music spicing in a fine collection of mostly-original material.

Among the highlights is “Wisconsin Country,” a haunting song that has Claudia’s ethereal vocals supported by the bowed bass of Jack Dryden and flute of Nancy Stagnitta, as she describes an autumnal journey through the countryside and into herself. Another is “If All Goes Well,” a jazzy tune about the resiliency of the human spirit. I also really like her version of “We’ll Be Together Again,” a standard familiar from the vocal-piano duets of Tony Bennett and Bill Evans. This version features Claudia’s voice and 12-string guitar receiving some quietly-soulful support from mandolinist Don Julin, bassist Dryden and drummer Randy Marsh.

I have to say, though, that my absolute favourite song on the CD is the title track. Sung a cappella with harmonies from Seth Bernard, May Erlewine and Rachael Davis, “Promising Sky” is a bright, gorgeous, hope-filled song inspired by the choral tradition of South Africa.

--Mike Regenstreif

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