Both of Lyn Stanley’s “Moonlight Sessions” Albums – Volume One and Volume Two – have been reviewed in Stereo DSD 128 by NativeDSD Review Duo John Huxhold & Eric Meyer. This is their second published review in our Call for Reviewers. Their first review was for Shostakovich No. 5 and Barber’s Adagio by Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra, Manfred Honeck, in Published: Call for Reviewers (Part 1).
Lyn Stanley: The Moonlight Sessions Volumes One & Two
> Reviewed in Stereo DSD 128
In an already crowded field of female jazz vocalists, Lyn Stanley is creating some impressive room for herself. Since embarking on a second career as jazz singer in 2013, Stanley has recorded five albums. The latest two, The Moonlight Sessions Volume 1 & 2 released in 2017, show Stanley reaching both musical and recording/engineering maturity. Jazz fans and audiophiles alike will find much to love within these two volumes.
Among the most laudable aspects of the albums are Stanley’s calculated artistic risks. Many of the jazz standards are thoughtfully interwoven with themes from classical music by Chopin, Debussy, Mozart and others. ‘Over the Rainbow’ (Vol. 2), for example, starts with a theme from Debussy’s ‘Clair de Lune’. Parts of Debussy’s composition appear throughout the song, interlaced with the ‘Over the Rainbow’ melody. The result is an insightful reinterpretation of a standard song, and is alone worth the price of the download. Other instances include ‘Summer Knows’ (Vol. 2), which starts with the familiar melody from Mozart’s Symphony No. 40, and ‘How Insensitive’, which uses Chopin’s Prelude in E minor. This technique gives the standards a refreshing depth and complexity without losing the simplicity of the original—very keenly done.
Not all her artistic gambles turn out as well. Changing up traditional tempos and rhythms often proves delightful, but some of Stanley’s slower bossa nova rhythms, for example, seem sluggish rather than charming. ‘Smile’ (Vol. 2) in particular generates a musically uncanny feeling with its listless bossa nova pulse. The already mentioned ‘How Insensitive’ appears on both volumes; on the first, it starts with piano, guitar and harmonica and takes a slower tempo; on Volume 2, ‘How Insensitive’ starts with a much longer and more interesting solo piano intro, which eventually leads into a more “natural,” faster bossa nova rhythm—much better. Not all will agree, but the fun for Stanley and for listeners alike is just such comparisons.
As insightful as the arrangements are, Stanley’s voice, of course, is the real key to these albums. She has wide, high quality vocal range with the ability to sing crystal clear highs in one phrase, then smoky, sultry lows in the next. In ‘Angel Eyes’ (Vol. 2) and ‘My Funny Valentine’ (Vol 1), for example, Stanley demonstrates impressive control over her voice, singing with clarity, texture, and pleasing vibrato—all leading to that essential emotional connection with listeners. Stanley’s musicians, too, are equally talented. She spared no expense here. From extended intros incorporating classical music to nuanced solos, the instrumentalists provide sensitive accompaniment to Stanley’s expressive performance.
Audiophiles will be very happy with this high-res DSD 128 Stereo download. The close attention to recording and engineering provides a quiet background with a very stable, naturalistic sound stage that brings Stanley and the instruments transparently into the listening space. Volume 1 seems a bit bass-heavy, even boomy at times. On ‘All or Nothing at All’, for example, even Stanley’s voice seems distorted on the low end. Volume 2 seems a distinctly better-balanced recording.
Although both volumes of The Moonlight Sessions are worth owning, the second volume is an absolute must-have, and Lyn Stanley is an absolute must-follow as she continues her second career as a proven jazz vocalist interested in thoughtful reinterpretation of jazz standards and high-quality, audiophile recording.