Dream Dancer, the third album by singer Beverley Beirne, works well on so many levels it's hard to know where to begin. The song choice is excellent, with Beirne selecting mostly lesser-known standards, loosely based around dreaming and dancing. They include Weaver Of Dreams, which was first recorded by Nat 'King' Cole, Daydream, a delightful ballad composed by Billy Strayhorn, and even a samba version of David Bowie's Let's Dance.
Beirne is supported by a top-notch ban, too, which includes Sam Watts on piano, Flo Moore on bass, Ben Brown on drums and percussion and Rob Hughes on saxophone and flute. There are also various guest appearances, most notably from the late Duncan Lamont, who contributes two songs and some wonderful tenor saxophone.
In these days of streaming, the sound is also worth a mention, I think. The album was engineered by Dick Hammett and produced by American keyboard player Jason Miles. Naming no names, but we've received several CDs recently that sounded very digital, clearly produced for streaming, and not for an old-fashioned stereo set-up. The sound on Dream Dancer, by contrast, was deep and rich, allowing every texture of Beirne's voice, and her superb band, to shine through.
The album opens with Let's Face The Music And Dance, the best known of the standards here, and a regular feature of Beirne's live set. Her smoky alto impresses, particularly in the lower register, and she plays and teases with the phrasing to great effect, making it sound fresh and new. Weaver Of Dreams opens with a swinging bass line from Flo Moore who impressed me with her playing throughout this album. "She sets it up to swing like a demon," Beirne notes, "which is what this song needs."
Let's Dance would not have sounded out of place on Beirne's excellent previous album, Jazz Just Wants To Have Fun, which featured some great 1980s pop songs, but works just as well here. The song features producer Jason Miles guesting on Fender Rhodes, and the samba beat works surprisingly well.
Temptation was a hit for Bing Crosby back in 1933. I'm not familiar with the original, but there's no way Bing could make it sound as sultry as Beirne, who delivers a fine vocal. The song opens with her singing over delicate percussion, courtesy of Ben Brown, before the band comes in, featuring Rob Hughes on flute, who also delivers a solo.
Bill is a lesser known track by Kern and Hammerstein, an "ode to an ordinary guy". It's a charming, fun song, and deserves to be better known. Duncan Lamont's Now We're Just Friends holds it own amongst the other standards here, and serves as a timely reminder of his songwriting skills. Old Brazil is even better. A late addition to the album, it is based on a piece of music he composed for the children's TV series, Mr. Benn. At Beirne's request, he added lyrics to the tune, which also features Romero Lubambo on guitar, Cyro Baptista on percussion and a string arrangement from Jason Miles.
Winter Moon is my favourite tune, and demonstrates Beirne's voice to great effect, accentuated by a fine arrangement. Sam Watts really shines on this track, too, which also features a powerful saxophone solo by Rob Hughes as the song builds to a dramatic climax.
Listen to Winter Moon here, and enjoy the video, too.
Michel Legrand's Pieces Of Dreams brings the album to a close, and is a simple duet with Watts. "When a song like this is so beautifully written, it's a gift to tell the story," Beirne admits in the sleeve notes.
Dream Dancer is a delight from start to finish, and album that I've been coming back to time and again - and you will too.