Reviews for Be Cool

reviewed by Rob Lester – Link to the Review

Practicing what she preaches with the album’s title song “Be Cool,” Carol McCartney is indeed chill in the best jazzy sense. What a pro! Opening with an in-command treatment of that number by fellow Canadian musician Joni Mitchell, it’s immediately clear that we’re safely in the hands of a confident real-deal jazz singer and solid musicians. They swing. No fluff here. Hooray for that. Rest assured that the singer is self-assured with good reason.

While the cool Carol can smoothly sail through melodies with élan, she can convincingly envelop herself in a luxurious ballad and create a lush mood. The classic “More Than You Know” is one of the more conservative items, showing she can play it fairly “straight” if she wants, singing with simple passion, not breaking new ground, but letting the song speak for itself, yet shying away from seriously considering the mentioned possibility of “if you grew tired and said goodbye” and the indications of an unequally-committed relationship. Her take on “For Heaven’s Sake” is truly rhapsodic and shows her sensitive side. This interpretation of the snuggly invitation to “fall in love,” written by Sherman Edwards (1776), Elise Bretton, and Donald Mayer mines all its romantic atmosphere without the slightest whiff of schmaltz. It’s genuine. And, likewise, a latter-day love song, “Solitary Moon” (Johnny Mandel with the Mr. and Mrs. of love lyrics, the team of Alan and Marilyn Bergman) also evokes unabashed affection with articulate images drenched in atmosphere that never seems too facile or gooey.

But the album favors a breezy manner, with the goings feeling hip at a quick clip. And with a singer so very able to zip through material with seeming ease, it’s a pleasure to experience the flights. She seems at home on each selection. Her voice is pleasingly clear and elastic, as she bends notes at will, scat-sings with great aplomb, and cheers the air. Her dipping her toe into the blues waters, if you can consider it that, “West Coast Blues,” is more of a romp and a wink. Shades of blue don’t seem to fit, so it’s good that this one with its slangy references to one’s “baby” (as in lover) and a “gig” is inherently light, rather than desolate.

With the period of 1930s and a bit beyond well represented, along with more recent items, many of the titles are established standards; still it’s no reason to leave out the songwriters’ names. (There isn’t much in the way of text, but her website offers the equivalent of detailed liner notes and background.)

Produced by the singer, the CD features a top-notch band; most arrangements are by pianist Brian Dickinson. The other players are: Lorne Lofsky (guitar), Kieran Overs (bass), Terry Clarke (drums), Chris Robinson (sax), and Mike Malone (flugelhorn). Their work is a major reason the doings cook so well; while their impressive longish solos are solid and creative, they never outshine the vocalist. Indeed, when she joins them with her scat work, putting the icing on a rich cake, it’s the topper. But listening to the guys work stuff out and let loose is very rewarding. While many liberties are taken in the jazz tradition, things don’t get wild or too many miles away from the musical architectures, tweaked though they may be. The adventures are accessible and just unpredictable enough to keep things interesting. Notably, with a simple melody like “Just You, Just Me,” they get more inventive on spotlight solos.

Jerome Kern’s melodies are not allowed to be stuffy or sentimental. They’re gleefully taken hostage to new speedy heights and reveal new charms. While his “Yesterdays,” whose lyric includes such a formal line as “Joyous, free and flaming life, forsooth, was mine” (Otto Harbach’s Roberta lyric), might go kicking and screaming into jazzy fleetness with its poetic stiffness awkwardly showing through, it’s a welcome revitalization. And another Kern, 1942’s “I’m Old Fashioned,” is about as old-fashioned as last week. Similarly set to be downed as a high-energy drink of speedy spunk, it also more than just survives. The new-fashioned version still brings out Johnny Mercer’s sentiments somehow. I think it’s because the parties here retain affection for the material and can, with serenity rather than gimmickry, prove it can be embraced in new clothing.

Although the Gershwins’ “‘S Wonderful” lands solidly in a rich comfort zone, I wish Carol had stuck to its cute conceit of lyricist Ira having all the many statements match the title instead of changing some to “It’s” rather than “‘S” (“It is marvelous … Why, it’s paradise”). Although other jazz singers seem fond of increasing the pace on this one as the team does with the Kern numbers, it doesn’t get that treatment here. And so we can relish the statements of drinking in that lucky “four-leaf clover time” of requited love, as the chosen tempo is more like sinking into a bubble bath than a race. Joy can be settled into and works as effectively as spiffy spurts of jubilation. But an actual race with time, about trying to reach a destination before the clock strikes 12, is just a little happy throwaway for a pick-me-up, I suppose. And is it just me that notices that this number called “Almost Twelve” and is placed as song #11? (singer Cassandra Wilson and jazz guitarist Fabrizio Sotti co-wrote this one.)

The Be Cool team, with their crisp and clean sound and panache, have clearly earned their degrees with apparent ease as graduates of the Cool School.

Reviewed by Edward Blanco – Link to the Review

Toronto native Carol McCartney records another impressive vocal statement on the breezy Be Cool cementing her reputation as one of Canada’s finest jazz vocalist and building on the foundation established from her critically-acclaimed debut Night In Tunisia(CDBaby, 2007). Though presenting a selection of primarily familiar standards from the jazz cannon, the Joni-Mitchell pop tune title track is an exception to this rule and is transformed into a jazz song with a clever arrangement from pianistBrian Dickinson who—along with others like Rick Wilkins, Paul Keller, Brian Wray and McCartney herself—all pen arrangement designed to feature the songstress’ crisp smooth vocals with the support of an amazing ensemble.

Drummer Terry Clarke introduces the Kern/Mercer standard “I’m Old Fashioned” with the vocalist quickly engaging and the band weighing in on a swinging version of the classic punctuated by terrific solos from saxophonist Chris Robinson, Clarke and firm background bass work from Kieran Overs. McCartney shines on the soft ballad “For Heaven’s Sake,” arranged by Dickinson, the pianist also shares the limelight here with gorgeous piano lines however, it’s the leader who delivers the memorable lines. The oft-recorded jazz standard “Yesterday” takes another turn with this McCartney-arranged rendition featuring guitaristLorne Lofsky and the pianist with vibrant solo moments.

There’s plenty of swinging material on the disc and one of the pieces living up to that measure is “Ev’rything I’ve Got (Belongs to You) which brings the flugelhorn voice ofMike Malone to the forefront. The other beautiful warm spot of the album has to be the romantic Bergman/Mandel song “Solitary Moon” which McCartney sings to the heart with a little help from Robinson’s tenor. Offering fresh new arrangement of “Just You Just Me,” “S’ Wonderful” and “More Than You Know,” McCartney’s vocal presentation of the classics make them sound almost like new.

The bluesy “West Coast Blues” and the upbeat perky “Almost Twelve” are other highlights not to be missed and warrant repeated spins. Though it’s been awhile since her last recording, Carol McCartney’s Be Cool is truly an astonishing vocal jazz project well worth the wait. Containing beautiful love songs, swinging tunes, excellent instrumentals, and mesmerizing vocals, this is one enchanting album that’s cool by any definition.

Carol McCartney’s Be Cool is mature work of an assured pro

by John Stewart – Link to the Review

“How heavenly heaven can be.”

That’s a line from an old jazz standard called For Heaven’s Sake that Billy Holiday made a hit a very long time ago.

If your idea of heaven is jazz/pop/blues driven by sumptuous arrangements, with an assured, mature vocalist at the controls, you can listen to the newest release from Mississauga songstress Carol McCartney and discover just how heavenly jazz can be.

For Heavens Sake is just one of the standouts on a record that is well-paced, well- played and well-conceived.

Inexplicably, this is just the second release under her own name for McCartney,  a  26-year Port Credit resident who’s sinuous and supple voice deserves a much wider audience.

A Night in Tunisia, recorded in 2007, won raves from critics and her live work features the same tasteful, evocative touch that graces her records.

The new release, titled Be Cool , shows that the vocalist is once again in complete control of the material, which is often mined from that sub-category of minor standards, the ones that have wandered slightly off the beaten track.

Standouts in that genre include the moody Solitary Moon, More Than You Know and Everything I’ve Got Belongs to You.

Half the six-person band on the record actually live within a couple of blocks of McCartney’s Port Credit home, including pianist Brian Dickinson, who provided arrangements for half the tunes. The always reliable bassist Kieran Overs, particularly effective on For Heaven’s Sake, is also a Mississaugan.

Rick Wilkins, a long-time saxophonist with Rob McConnell’s Boss Brass who sits atop the pile of the country’s best jazz arrangers, provided the charts for three songs including Solitary Moon.

The singer worked in the studio and on stage for years with pianist and arranger John Sherwood. When he wanted to spend more time with his own trio she started working with the Juno-award winning Dickinson, who heads the keyboard department in the Humber College jazz program.

“He brought that contemporary vibe,” says McCartney, who teaches vocal jazz at Mohawk College.

The singer steps a little out of her comfort zone with reworkings of Wes Montgomery’s West Coast Blues and Joni Mitchell’s Be Cool. The latter was a bit of a revelation for McCartney, a longtime Joni fan. “I’d never sung a Joni tune,” she said in an interview at a Port Credit coffee shop. “It’s tricky because she throws in more words than scan to the meter. It took me a while to master it. “There are interesting horn lines around the vocal that are different. This was a fresh idea for me I usually do more classic kinds of jazz this was a little out of the mold.”

It’s one of the freshest tracks on the record.

Ironically, so is “I’m Old-Fashioned,” the classic 1942 Johnny Mercer-Jerome Kern song which has a Dickinson arrangement featuring an especially effective drum/vocal entrance from veteran Terry Clarke.

Also featured on the record are saxophonist Chris Robinson, guitarist Lorne Lofsky and Mike Malone on flugelhorn.

McCartney launches the CD this Thursday and Friday nights at the Jazz Bistro at 251 Victoria St. in Toronto, with sets starting at 9 p.m. Several of the songs are already in rotation on Jazz.FM91.

Be Cool is available at CD Baby, iTunes, and Amazon.

McCartney, who started her career singing at the Cloud Room in the old Constellation Hotel on the airport strip, believes making the record is just the start of the process these days.

“The music’s the easy part,” she says “You pick strong songs you feel good about and you get a strong band, so not much can go wrong. Then you try to have a good time and not get too serious.”

The hard part is finding an audience in the new, fragmented digital world of distribution. “Now you have to start worrying about how you get it out there.”

Whole note Magazine – Jazz and Improvised

by Stuart Broomer – Read the Article 

Carol McCartney has been a vocalist to seek out since her 2007 debut A Night in Tunisia, declaring with its title a devotion to jazz more demanding than many singers will risk, stretching from standards and ballads to the demands of bop. The breadth of her repertoire and the quality of her soaring alto voice are evident on her latest CD, Be Cool (Moxy 014, where she stretches from the Joni Mitchell-composed title track to Duke Ellington’sTulip or Turnip and Wes Montgomery’s West Coast Blues. She’s joined by stellar musicians, including guitarist Lorne Lofsky, drummer Terry Clarke, bassist Kieran Overs and tenor saxophonist Chris Robinson, with pianist Brian Dickinson and Rick Wilkins providing arrangements. McCartney’s scatting on Almost Twelve makes the bossa nova a standout.

Music Man Blog

Reviewed by Robert Nicosia – Link to review

Carol McCartney was born and raised in North Toronto, Canada and she has just released her second CD, “Be Cool”.  Normally when I do a review of a new Jazz singer, I have to play the CD several times to feel the emotions of the vocalist, the musical arrangements and the quality of the supporting musicians. This was not the case for “Be Cool”. Carol McCartney has a pure, strong voice and sings lyrics like she is telling her own life story.  She projects a comfortable, relaxed attitude which when combined with her perfect pitch, captures the listener who becomes totally spellbound with the lyrics and melodies. Sometimes when you listen to a Jazz singer, the recording clearly projects a singer singing with a Jazz band.  When you listen to Carol singing, her voice and the band merge and become one. The results are spectacular for any Jazz lover!

Carol is very well known throughout Canada and Internationally.  She has performed at many Canadian and International Jazz festivals.  She is also a noted Jazz educator, teaching Vocal Jazz at the University level in Canada. She is multi-talented, helped mix the songs  and was the Producer for this wonderful CD.  The songs selected for this CD are a great blend of standards, some of which you don’t hear very often and yet, all the songs flow together perfectly.

I must mention the arrangers of the songs on this CD because each arrangement is outstanding. Pianist Brian Dickinsonarranged the title track, “Be Cool” and also “I’m Old Fashioned”, “For Heaven Sake”, “West Coast Blues”, “Almost Twelve” and “More Than You Know”.  Rick Wilkins the multi-talented composer, arranger and Sax player did the arrangements for “Tulip or Turnip”, “Ev’rything I’ve Got (Belongs to You)” and “Solitary Moon”.  Paul Keller did“Just You, Just Me”. Brian Wray did the arrangement for “S’Wonderful” and Carol McCartney wrote a wonderful arrangement for “Yesterdays”.

One of the major characteristics of all great Jazz singers is they understand the value of singing with a great cast of supporting musicians. Gathering great musicians to support a singer is only half the job; the other half ,which is just as important, is to have supporting musicians that fit the singers style, voice and material.  Carol has mastered this requirement perfectly.  The musicians playing alongside Carol on this CD are nothing short of outstanding.  Each musician is a seasoned pro, and the result has produced what I believe should be a “Grammy” nominated Jazz CD. I especially want to mention the brilliant contribution from Brian Dickinson’s Piano playing!

Spill Magazine CD Release Show Review

Link to the review

Canadian jazz chanteneuse Carol McCartney and her all-star band tore up the second of a three-night stand at the Jazz Bistro on Friday, October 24.

The night, comprising a full mix of classic standards that swung, gave exotic twists, and brought lush romanticism for an attentive audience, was in celebration of her sophomore CD, aptly titled Be Cool.

Opening off the first set I attended was a brisk Latin arrangement of Cole Porter’s “Night and Day.” From the get-go, Carol McCartney’s vocal delivery was full of clarity, high spirits, and full of enthusiasm for bringing a fresh edge to the jazz scene. She even brings this flare into a vocal take on the Wes Montgomery classic West Coast Blues, which swings effortlessly as a brisk jazz waltz with witty lyrics that make the listener want to leave the cold and head out west.

Continuing the trend of interpreting varied material, McCartney and her band did justice to the Joni Mitchell classic Be Cool by providing a soulful, bluesy edge to the piece as evidenced in Joni’s classic jazz treatment of it. It made you want to snap your fingers and tap your toes to a cool arrangement taken at a relaxed pace. She even delved into the repertoire of Cassandra Wilson and her bossa nova take of “Almost Twelve,” channeling one of her contemporary influences in an effective manner by making the arrangement completely her own while introducing a fairly new song to the audience.

One of the highlights of the concert was her duets with just piano and bass that really show off the clarity of her voice and how she respects the lyrical content of her performance. With pianist Brian Dickinson, McCartney delves into “More Than You Know” as a heartfelt romantic ballad that brings a good cap to a romantic evening at a jazz club. Another duet, this time with Kieran Overs on bass, brings the childlike and playful innocence into the Bobby Timmons/ Oscar Brown Jr. classic “Dat Dere.” It also pays homage and respect to the classic version done many years ago by Sheila Jordan when she experimented with just voice and bass on that tune and her other later works.

McCartney and her stellar band consisting of pianist Brian Dickinson, Bassist Kieran Overs, guitarist Reg Schwager, saxophonist Chris Robinson and drummer Terry Clarke have done justice to the stellar repertoire through their carefully-executed arrangements and top-shelf playing by all involved. It was an affair full of high spirits that was intimate and at the same time celebratory for the music that was performed. McCartney’s voice and diction throughout the night was so clear and poised, to the point that the real meaning and beauty of the lyrics came forth effectively. Congratulations to Mrs. McCartney and her team for a great concert and releasing a great collection of music to be enjoyed for years to come.

– Conrad Gayle