The Music’s On Me is the second album by Chesterfield-based pianist and singer, Wendy Kirkland. It represents a big step forward in every way; her singing and playing sound more vibrant and self-assured, and her own compositions – several of which are featured here – hold their own with the standards that appeared on her debut.
She is joined by a top-notch band; her husband, Pat Sprakes, on guitar, Paul Jefferies on bass and Steve Wyndham on drums. There are also guest appearances from Roger Beaujolais on vibraphone and Tommaso Starace on saxophones.
The album opens with a jaunty tune, The Music In Me, which was co-composed by Kirkland and Sprakes. Many of the tunes were written on her 2018 tour, which was sponsored by Arts Council England, and this song sets the tone for the album.
There are some well-chosen covers, too, with Kirkland wisely choosing some lesser-known tunes that proved popular on her recent tour. Nothing Like You, composed by Bob Dorough and Fran Landesman, famously appeared on Sorcerer by Miles Davies, and was covered more recently by Cecile McLorin Salvant, but remains a somewhat overlooked gem. Even better is Sunday In New York, by Peter Nero, which was composed for the movie soundtrack of the same name – and originally sung by Mel Torme.
Kirkland has also composed lyrics to some tunes written by jazz instrumentalists, including September Second by Michel Petrucciani and West Coast Blues by Wes Montgomery. The quality of her songwriting really impresses throughout, my favourite being Playground by guitarist Russell Malone, which also features the delicate vibes of Roger Beaujolais, who takes a delightful solo.
Another standout is the samba, O Gato Molhado, which I had assumed was a cover – but was co-composed by Kirkland and Sprakes, with a little help on the translation by Irma Gilbert. This track features fabulous solos by both composers, with Kirkland’s solo fluid and assured, as it is throughout.
The album ends with Travelling Home, another new composition, which has real crossover potential; there’s some gentle saxophone by Tommaso Starace, gently underpinning the verse, another fine solo by Sprakes, before Starace steps up with a solo of his own.
The Music’s On Me impresses on every level; it’s great to hear so many self-composed tunes, and Kirkland’s singing and playing – recorded together, with no overdubs – sound superb. Recommended.