In her return to Birdland, Stacey Kent revealed a freshly minted mix of worldly allure and winsome sophistication. In an eclectic program that traversed the globe from Brazil and Paree to Broadway, Kent offered a sweet, pliant and seductive voice that curled and purred its way into a familiar lyric in a manner suggesting that she was harboring a sweet secret.
Her Manhattan appearance marked her Blue Note debut with the CD release of “Breakfast on the Morning Tram.” Opener found her cozying up with a tentative lover in Arctic temps and “a vast expanse of cold” for a dubious chilly rendezvous at “The Ice Hotel.” The title tune, penned by husband Jim Tomlinson and novelist Kazuo Ishiguro, is a bright holiday rail journey where Belgian waffles, croissants and jam in the morning guarantee to erase any troubles. “I Wish I Could Go Traveling Again,” by the same team, found Kent as a torch-carrying tour guide on a picturesque travelogue.
Antonio Carlos Jobim’s tongue-twisting “Waters of March” put Kent in bossa terrain with the infectious essence of Brazilian rhythms and a beguiling poetic text. She also added continental allure with the chanson of Serge Gainsbourg, sung in perfect French.
Kent does not entirely leave the pages of the Great American Songbook unturned. Irving Berlin’s “I Got Lost in His Arms” has seldom been so ardently framed. She also goes Broadway with a pair of tunes from “My Fair Lady.” Lerner and Loewe’s “Show Me” provided a bright swinging spirit, and “I’ve Grown Accustomed to His Face” was rendered as a subtle secret confessional.
Kent is never without the warm cushioned comfort of hubby Tomlinson’s reed accompaniment. His tenor solo on the latter is warm and lustrous, and he displayed his free-swinging chops on the old standard “Comes Love.” Pianist Art Hirahara took flight on the same tune with big, fat bolstering chords.