Carolyn Leonhart and Wayne Escoffery
If Dreams Come True
Vocalist Carolyn Leonhart and her husband, saxophonist Wayne Escoffery, have lent their talents to one another’s albums previously, but this is their first full-fledged collaborative effort. If there’s any justice, it won’t be their last.
From the first note to the last, it’s clear that, to borrow a cliché, the two make beautiful music together. On the opening title track, the mood gets brighter and brighter as first bassist Hans Glawischnig, then drummer Jason Brown, and finally pianist Toru Dodo enter. Then Leonhart and Escofferey breeze in with a flourish, Leonhart effortlessly sailing through the lyrics and Escofferey riding atop the melody, before venturing off for a solo accompanied by Leonhart’s wordless backing.
On their original “Nothing Left To Say,” the formula and mood are similar: upbeat and exploratory, both voice and sax reaching out, with supple accompaniment from the rhythm section. Kenny Barron’s “Never Too Soon,” with lyrics by Leonhart, offers Escofferey even more opportunity to stretch out, which he does with aplomb. Throughout the disc, he makes his case as one of modern jazz’s foremost saxophonists, albeit one who hasn’t received the press of a Joshua Redman or Branford Marsalis. But listening reveals shadings to his playing that others would do well to emulate.
For her part, Leonhart shows she not only has an enticing voice, she knows how use it. And when. On Escofferey’s “Not Without You” she’s part of the background, her vocalizing essentially another wind instrument, but she’s mostly absent as the quartet does the heavy lifting. The same is true on the Hank Jones-penned “Angel Face,” before she returns on Benny Carter’s “Key Largo.” Whatever track you choose, this disc is proof that, both for this musical couple and for listeners, dreams really do come true.
- Ross Boissoneau