Review by Brad Walseth
An overnight sensation at age 70, singer Elli Fordyce has released "Something Still Cool," a collection of standards sung by Fordyce with a backing from Harry Whitaker (and David Epstein on two cuts) on piano, Mark Wade on bass, Joe Strasser on drums, Samuel Torres on percussion and Joe Magnarelli on trumpet. Additionally, vocalist Jim Molloy joins the fun on five of the tunes.
That this is Fordyce’s first recording may give some pause, but the singer is no amateur wanna-be, having had a career as a jazz vocalist cut short years ago by a serious car accident. Her early exposure to Ella Fitzgerald, Carmen McCrea, June Christy and Chet Baker informs Fordyce’s vocal style which exudes talent and experience, and her backing band plays sensitively and well. Molloy is a perfect foil to Fordyce with his classy, yet warm delivery and their two voices sound extremely comfortable together.
The songs covered range from "When Sunny Gets Blue" to Lerner and Loewe ("Wouldn’t It Be Loverly," "Almost Like Being in Love"), Jimmy Van Huesen (a wonderful "Imagination," with just piano accompaniment by David Epstein, "It Could Happen to You" and "I Thought About You"), Gershwin ("Love is Here to Stay," "They Can’t Take That Away From Me"). The duet version of Adler/Ross’ "Hey There" is charming, while "Don’t Blame Me" is a bluesy and memorable highlight. Fordyce's voice is lovely with strong command, a natural rhythmic touch and just a touch of a rough edge to her honeyed voice. Scatting with aplomb, she also shows a knack for the south of the border sound of "One Note Samba" and especially Jobim's "Dindi" where she gives a singular performance.
A very nice presentation by all involved and a true showcase for a singer whom one wishes would have never had to give up singing for so long, but better late than never. And it ends with a beautifully heartfelt version of "Something Cool" that Fordyce remembers as being especially important to her as a lonely teenager. All in all, this recording is a great choice for lovers of vocal jazz standards, and who may be tired of some of the “unusual” attempts of some of the modern singers to improve the great songs. Fordyce doesn’t sing by rote, and her vocal ideas are full of imagination and personality, but neither does she detract from the beauty of the melody like some of our recent "songbirds," who believe they are "cool." After all this time, it is clear that Elli Fordyce knows how to sing a song and that she knows the real meaning of "cool."