Meri Slaven: Sweet Dreams
Meri Slaven (vocals)
Composed by Don Gibson.
Recorded: Clawson, Michigan, 2006
Rating: 94/100 (learn more)
In their efforts to expand or at least stop the bleeding in the increasingly elusive, shrinking jazz listening audience, many artists resort to raiding the pop, rock & roll or rhythm & blues warehouses looking for recognizable, commercially viable material to transform and clever up. The results are often contrived and frequently unlistenable; and the cringe factor only increases when jazz artists purloin wares from the country & western stacks. That’s why it is so refreshing to hear an honestly crafted crossover of this timeless hillbilly torch song.
Meri Slaven is no ordinary singer — with an abundance of chops and great pipes, she could easily scat, bop or funk it up like the big dogs but has the class and good sense not to. Instead, Slaven offers pure, sustained phrases wrapped in tear-stained cocktail napkins. Patsy Cline, who broke the charts and more than a few hearts with this tune, would have no problem believing the depth of feeling here.
Pianist Scott Gwinnell’s subtle arrangement offers a bare minimum of reharmonization and enhancement with strings, underscoring the raw emotion of Slaven's gut-wrenching interpretation. There is no inappropriate dissonance, altered time or tongue-in-cheek jazzy condescension. The result is an urbanized, cliché—free ballad which would feel equally at home at the Blue Note, Caveau de la Huchette, or Ryman Auditorium.
Reviewer: Bill Barnes