Rhapsody In Technicolor Review

Sylvia Mims, after spending time early in her career singing standards in San Diego and Los Angeles, studied classical voice in Connecticut for several years before deciding to return to jazz. The jazz world should be grateful that she came back because she has a beautiful voice, is quite sensitive when interpreting lyrics, and always swings. Her debut CD Where Lovers Live was excellent and the follow-up, Rhapsody In Technicolor, is even better.

            This wide-ranging set features Sylvia Mims at her best. She is usually joined by pianist Matt DeChamplain (Taber Gable and Donn Tronner are on two songs apiece), and often by bassist Matt Dwonszyk and drummer Curtis Torian (Jonathan Barber is on two numbers). Violinist Jason Anick is a major asset on “Wild Is The Wind” and “Fragile,” classical guitarist Cesar Garabini is on two songs, and Joshua Bruneau adds his muted trumpet to the funky “What You Won’t Do For Love.”

            But the main star throughout is Sylvia Mims. She puts plenty of feeling into an atmospheric “House Of The Rising Sun which is filled with her glorious long notes. In addition to singing the lyrics, she contributes some very nice wordless singing to “A Day In The Life Of A Fool.” She scats well on a faster-than-usual version of “Beautiful Love” and displays superior ballad singing on “Wild Is The Wind” and “Sometimes I Wonder Why,” perfectly placing her notes. The latter is the first of four songs that Ms. Mims takes as a duet with either DeChamplain or Trenner.

            “Fragile” excels at the unexpectedly fast tempo with strong contributions from Anick and Garabini (who gives the song a touch of gypsy swing). “I Didn’t Know What Time It Was” cooks in 6/4 time while “Morning” has the singer and DeChamplain quite comfortable performing a song with a salsa feel. “The Nearness Of You” is a tender performance with Trenner while Dave Brubeck’s “Strange Meadowlark” (which has rarely been revived) is a duet with the DeChamplain.” “What You Won’t Do For Love” has Sylvia Mims sounding soulful on an r&b piece, and she is quite exuberant during “I Will Wait For You.” “Nature Boy” teams the vocalist (who shows confidence at the relatively fast tempo) with the virtuosic bassist Dwonszyk.  A swinging “Old Devil Moon” and a heartfelt version of the Donn Trenner ballad “Here I Am With You” conclude the memorable set.

            Rhapsody In Technicolor is one of the finest jazz vocal albums of the year, serving as a perfect introduction to the artistry of Sylvia Mims.

Scott Yanow, Jazz Journalist/Historian and Author of 11 books including The Jazz Singers