Dionne Warwick has been mixing up her pitches in the recording studio over the past decade with a Christmas album, a duet album and a visit to her gospel roots. Her most recent release, “Only Trust Your Heart” (MPCA) — a collection of standards and rarities with lyrics mostly penned by songwriter/raconteur Sammy Cahn — takes yet another, rather unexpected direction. Upon its March 15 release, All-Music Guide weighed in quickly, saying Warwick “demonstrates a mastery of several classic pop styles.”
MPCA, which owns Cahn’s catalog, was looking for a singer to record some of the songs. Warwick’s booking agent Carlos Keyes brought her the idea, and she was intrigued. Though none of the songs were in her repertoire, “I was familiar with quite a few of them,” she says.
The recording ventures into prime Sinatra territory with “I’m a Fool to Want You” — said to be a torch song directed at Ava Gardner — and a couple of Sammy Cahn/Jimmy Van Heusen gems, “The Second Time Around” and “Pocketful of Miracles.” “I’m a Fool to Want You” is one of the CD’s two non-Cahn tunes co-credited to another MPCA songwriter, Jack Wolf. The other Wolf song, “Keep Me in Mind,” was an early (1955) collaboration with a now-familiar name, Burt Bacharach.
“That was a surprise,” Dionne says. “I didn’t think it was my Burt Bacharach! I asked him about it. He asked, ‘did you record it?’
I said yeah, he said, ‘you gotta be kidding! I must hear it.’?”
Recorded live in the studio, with producer Michael Mangini crafting arrangements ranging from bossa nova to big band jazz, banks of strings and a jazz piano trio, this is Warwick’s first attempt at what could be called a jazz album. Although the flexibility of her phrasing, particularly on her Bacharach/David records, suggests that she might have a jazz background, she doesn’t. It all stems from gospel.
“I didn’t have a clue that they were going to tout it as a jazz album, but jazz aficionados felt that is what it is,” says Warwick. “It was the most fun I’ve had recording in quite a while.”
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