TAS Rated 4.5/5 Music, 4/5 Sonics in the September 2023 Issue of The Absolute Sound!
Pieces of Treasure, Rickie Lee Jones' 2023 album, has been a long time coming. In a career that has spanned more than four decades, the renowned singer songwriter has interpreted an extraordinarily wide range of songs from writers and artists she loves, often collected on the same album — showtunes, blues, folk, rock (David Bowie publicly praised her take on "Rebel Rebel"). She was nominated for a 1989 Best Jazz Vocal Performance Grammy for her rendition of "Autumn Leaves" from Rob Wasserman's Duets album; a year later she won in the same category for her duet with Dr. John of "Makin' Whoopee." She has released the celebrated jazz-leaning albums Girl at Her Volcano and Pop Pop, but until now, she had never devoted an entire album to the American Songbook.
Pieces of Treasure — the title a callback to Jones' seminal album Pirates — is a reunion with legendary producer Russ Titelman, who had, with former Warner Bros. Records head Lenny Waronker, co-produced her star-making 1980 debut LP Rickie Lee Jones and the follow up, Pirates. Titelman had followed Jones' career over the many years since they'd last collaborated, faithfully going to hear her play whenever she came through New York City. They recently started having phone conversations and then meeting up for lunch; each time Titleman would tell her the same thing: "We're going to make a jazz record. We're going to make a jazz record."
Recorded over five days at Sear Sound in midtown Manhattan, backed by the quartet of Rob Mounsey on piano, guitarist Russell Malone, bassist David Wong and drummer Mark McLean, the music came easily. The result is intimate and elegantly simple, a deeply emotive set that feels as if it were pulled from Jones' own life and experience as much as from the American Songbook. You can hear a few sobs at the end of closing track, "It's All In the Game": they're real and they're from Jones — she was as moved by that moment in the vocal booth as a listener undoubtedly will be. It is clear Rickie Lee Jones was born to sing jazz.
Titelman was beguiled by Jones' voice and songs from the moment his long-time friend and colleague Waronker played him a demo of this young discovery. "Company," the penultimate song on Rickie Lee Jones, had moved him to tears even in its demo form. That admiration has not diminished, as Titelman writes in the liner notes to Pieces of Treasure: "This American Songbook recording shows Rickie's artistry in full bloom. Her voice has always sounded a bit younger than it ought to (that may be a function of her ability to inhabit the character who is singing the song so masterfully that you believe every word) but on this recording the aging voice sounds even better to me than the youthful one. There's a resonance and warmth in her lower register that wasn't there before. I adore the young Rickie Lee but I love even more the Old Dame."
Says Jones, "When I was young it was about getting—it was about getting money, getting fame, getting the glory. At some point you have to get old enough to know—some kind of peace comes when you say, I'm going to give something to somebody. For me, I had to grow into that shape, where I felt I had something to give, that my job is only to give. There are lots of ways to sing a song. But…maybe what I possess is this imagination, and the ability to bring my imagination to others."
Rickie Lee Jones fully commits to these standards and evokes the romantic glow of a more nostalgic era.
- Vinyl LP
|Mike Mainieri||vibes (1)|
|Jon Herington||acoustic guitar|
|Mike Dillon||vibes (7)|
|Scott Robinson||baritone sax, trumpet, alto sax|
|Rickie Lee Jones||vocals, horn arrangements|
|Gil Goldstein||string arrangements|
- Just in Time
- There Will Never Be Another You
- Nature Boy
- One for My Baby
- They Can't Take That Away from Me
- All the Way
- Here's That Rainy Day
- September Song
- On the Sunny Side of the Street
- It's All in the Game