Jazz vocals in the tradition of
old-school divas is what you get with Easy to Love (2013) by
Lizzie Thomas. It’s a set of 10 standards, including a few that are
slightly off the beaten path.
A variable ensemble of musicians assists Thomas. For most tracks, she’s
accompanied by pianist Xavier Davis, trumpeter Antoine Drye, guitarist
Ron Affif and bassist Yoshi Waki. Appearing on selected tracks are
Janelle Reichman, clarinet; Greg Ryan, bass; Frank Lacy, trombone; and
Anne Drummond, flute. Drum duties are split between Frank Levatino and
“Close Your Eyes” is a delightful ballad. Balance between voice and
instruments is superb. Thomas charms with her singing while the
musicians provide plenty of ambience. Waki, Davis and Garnett maintain
the pace behind solos by Affif and Drye. Thomas comes back for the
finale, delivering the lines with verve before closing with a fade stop.
An up-tempo waltz is the rhythm for “Just the Way You Look Tonight.”
Reichman, Drye and Lacy provide horn section fills during the early
verses. Reichman delivers a clarinet solo similar to what one might
expect from Benny Goodman. Davis and Lacy inject their own touches.
Thomas also takes on the classics “One Note Samba,” “I only Have Eyes
for You,” “You Stepped Out of a Dream” and “Our Love Is Here to Stay.”
It’s easy for a vocalist who does these songs to get lost in the
shuffle. However, individuality and fresh arrangements help Thomas avoid
Thomas began studying classical piano at the age of 8, clarinet at 10
and discovered her voice at 13. She studied jazz vocals at Belmont
University in Nashville, Tennessee. After graduating with a bachelor of
arts degree in vocal jazz performance, she experimented with indie
alternative bands as a keyboardist and songwriter. Easy to Love
is Thomas’ second album as a leader.