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Nancy LaMott: Live at Tavern on the Green

A newly released recording is a testament to the magic that the late Nancy LaMott created whenever and wherever she sang. logo
The sad irony of the title of the new CD Nancy LaMott: Live at Tavern on the Green is inescapable. As her many fans know all too well, Nancy LaMott died of uterine cancer at age 43 in 1995. Composer-conductor David Friedman was and continues to be a great champion of the singer's artistry; indeed, he founded the record company Midder Music specifically for her. Now, that company has released the first "live" LaMott CD, recorded in the Chestnut Room at Tavern on the Green just seven weeks before her passing.

Nancy's great taste in music was one of her hallmarks as an artist, as evidenced by this wonderful program of songs. About half of the selections were previously recorded by her and may be found on one or another of her four fabulous studio albums (not counting her Christmas album and What's Good About Goodbye?, another posthumous release consisting of previously unreleased recordings with added orchestral accompaniment). Here, in such ballads as "I Didn't Know What Time it Was" (Rodgers & Hart), "How Deep is the Ocean" (Irving Berlin), "Sailin' On" (Alan Menken-Dean Pitchford), and "Secret o' Life" (James Taylor), Nancy offers the creamy, dreamy vocal tone for which she was justly treasured -- but when she has to, she belts with a joyous verve, as in the climaxes of Friedman's "Listen to My Heart" and "Help Is On the Way." Her patter is thoroughly charming throughout.

One of the finest cuts on the CD is "The Promise" (David Shire-Alan & Marilyn Bergman), from the film of the same title. You can hear Nancy sing this song in combination with the Harold Arlen-Leo Robin tune "What's Good About Goodbye?" on the album that shares that title, with an added full orchestra behind her; still, it's nice to hear her perform it in a live setting. Another of my favorites is not to be found on any of Nancy's other discs: Rupert Holmes's "The People That You Never Get to Love."

God bless sound technician Matt Berman, who, as Friedman writes in his notes for the CD, had the foresight to record all of Nancy's live performances. Considering that the tape of the Tavern on the Green gig was never intended for commercial release, it sounds excellent: clear and full, if a little bass-shy, with no distortion and a nice amount of room ambience. It does seem to be a monaural recording, though it's hard to say for sure. There's no obvious stereo separation between Nancy's voice and the three instrumentalists -- Christopher Marlowe on piano, Steve LaSpina on bass, John Redsecker on drums -- but this doesn't matter much with so small a combo.

Marlowe, Nancy's loyal arranger-musical director-accompanist, is a tremendous asset to the recording. There's a very funny sequence where LaMott introduces him playing a bit of Bach's Prelude No. 11 in F, supposedly because "it's in his contract" that he gets to play one "serious" piece of music per show. After the piece is performed and received with applause, Marlowe plays it again -- and LaMott sings, of all things, "Jeepers Creepers" in counterpoint to it. This delightful bit is a perfect example of the duo's terrific chemistry.

Said critic Terry Teachout, "Nancy LaMott had only half a life, but she lived all she could and with even greater passion as she knew it was drawing to a close." After her demise, there was a dark period during which Nancy's recordings were out of print for a few years due to legal battles over her estate; happily, those issues have been resolved and her entire catalogue is now being re-released along with Nancy LaMott: Live at Tavern on the Green, a valuable addition to a great singer's recorded oeuvre.


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