Roberta Gambarini & Hank Jones: Lush Life
Recorded: New York, September 27, 2005
Rating: 92/100 (learn more)
About a half century separates the ages of these two artists, but you wouldn't guess it from this collaboration. Jones is always youthful, no matter what the date on his birth certificate might tell you. Gambarini, for her part, performs with great maturity in this setting, eschewing skiddle-dee-doo scat pyrotechnics, which she so often delivers with great (too great?) ease, and instead digs deeply into the psychological state of this strange ballad.
You need maturity to pull off this song. Some may think that these lyrics were an example of overreaching by Strayhorn, who was still a teenager when he began work on this world-weary lament. After all, how much could he know about getting "washed away by too many through the day 12 o'clock tales." But these precocious lyrics still bowl me over. Has anyone written a more vehement denial of the whole ethos of the love song -- daring to proclaim that "romance is mush stifling those who strive." The pathos and self-duplicity of these words transcend pop tune sentimentality, just as Strayhorn's harmonies reach to the heights of art song.
Gambarini rises to the occasion here. Jones's accompaniment is very stark, but further serves to anchor this performance and contribute to its high drama. Fans will also want to check out a memorable live recording of this same song by Gambarini and Jones (with bass and drums) from the 2006 Umbria Jazz Festival.
Reviewer: Ted Gioia