Diana Panton,
(Factor, 2015)

Diana Panton,
I Believe in Little Things
(Factor, 2015)

When the legendary Canadian jazz musician Don Thompson first heard the then 19-year-old Diana Parton sing, he recommended that she audition for the jazz workshop at the Banff Center for Arts. She did, and she studied there with Canada's finest jazz singers until she emerged as another one of Canada's finest jazz singers.

On Red, Parton's voice is ethereal and soaring. It never pushes the song but instead gently coaxes it along, allowing it to emerge instead of forcing it out. Hers is a voice best described by words not always associated with jazz: tasteful and melodic. It's as though she considers the song more important than the singer and lets the story of the lyrics become the showcase spot. It is masterful singing.

Song choices? She relies on the great songbook composers: Frank Loesser, Jimmy McHugh, Cole Porter, and George and Ira Gershwin, mixing their songs with newer ones by the emerging generations of jazz writers. Again, her selections are tasteful, approachable and listener-friendly, without being overdone and trite.

The arrangements on the disc are fine also. Large string sections propel the opening cut, "Say It Over & Over Again," and beautifully decorate the other songs. A standard jazz band -- piano, bass, horns, guitar and drums -- support the songs, making this a heartfelt album.

If Red was all Diana Panton did, it would be enough, but along with it, she has released a children's album, I Believe in Little Things. This album lightens up the arrangements, since she is backed only by a trio of Don Thompson on bass, piano and vibes, Reg Schwager on guitar and Coenraad Bloemendal on cello.

Chosen by the Taiwan version of Amazon.com as the best jazz album of 2015, the album is a beauty. Containing children's classic songs from Disney, Sesame Street and other equally fine sources, it aims to give little kids a treat -- its booklet is a children's picture book -- as well as a gentle introduction to jazz.

Panton, though, has a larger goal with this album: to show how important the imagination is. As she writes in the brief liner notes, "Imagination is one of our greatest gifts. It has the power to transform the humdrum into something magical."

And that's exactly what Diane Panton does with this album.

music review by
Michael Scott Cain

23 July 2016

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