‘So, out of all the great gigs I have seen featuring singers I have to pick the massively
underrated Sarah Moule at the 2009 Swanage Jazz Festival.’ Brian Blain, JAZZ UK MAGAZINE- August/September 2011 writing about his jazz vocal highlights during the past 100 editions of the magazine.
THE OBSERVER 18th May 2008 – Dave Gelly
Sarah Moule – A LAZY KIND OF LOVE
The great American lyricist Fran Landesman has lived quietly in London for decades. No one has ever revealed the panic beneath the brittle smile with more devastating precision. In recent times she has found perfect collaborators in composer-pianist Simon Wallace and singer Sarah Moule, and their joint work accounts for 10 of these 14 tracks. Delicately arranged and played by a cast of our top jazz musicians (Alan Barnes, Alec Dankworth et al), they show that Fran is still in great form. Add one of the best Atkin-James songs and a few more goodies and you have a little treasure.
JAZZWISE MAGAZINE – JULY 2008 – By Peter Quinn
***A LAZY KIND OF LOVE
She may have switched record labels – her previous two releases both appeared on Linn Records – but vocalist Sarah Moule’s artistic focus remains firmly tuned into the oeuvre of Landesman and Wallace. Of the 14 tracks tghat make up the album, the majority come from the powerfully distinctgive songwriting duo. And why not, when the results are as rewarding as the date-gone-wrong-angst of ‘It’s Not Your Night’ (There’s a singer who’s murdering your favourite song/As you sit there and wonder why it all went wrong/You’re an island of Chekhov in a Disney song/It’s not your night’). Or the truckload of anguish served up by ‘The Last Smoker’ (‘Goodbye to liberty/In the land of the banned’).
Of the non-Landesman/Wallace material, Jule Styne and Sammy Cahn’s ‘I Fall In Love Too Easily’ supples immediate gratification of a musical sweet tooth – Moule sounding spookily like k.d. lang on certain phrases – while ‘I Will Write My Book’ by US songwriter, producer and performer Joe Henry, receives a spacious, minimalist arrangement à la Larry Klein. Once again, brilliantly arranged and produced by Wallace, who features on piano, Hammond and accordion, leading a band of exceptional depth and experience. this is an album of beguiling variety and telling detail.
Chris Parker, July 2008
A LAZY KIND OF LOVE (RAM001)
Although she does occasionally scat and is clearly influenced by jazz phrasing, Sarah Moule is best described – as in her publicity material – as ‘one of the UK’s foremost interpreters of modern song’. On this Red Ram album (a previous couple were made for Linn), she concentrates her intelligent and subtle vocal powers on material written by an extraordinarily fertile songwriting team, pianist Simon Wallace and Fran Landesman. Their songs range from the sensuous title-track (co-written with Julie Birchill), given an appropriately languorous treatment by Moule, through sexily witty blues-based pieces (‘Hyde Side Blues’, which addresses the Jekyll and Hyde theme from a slightly unusual angle) to wry explorations of the emotional balancing acts involved in love affairs – all impeccably delivered by Moule, who is able to express both straightforward emotion and artily literate complexities (‘You’re an island of Chekhov in a Disney throng’) with equal ease and assurance. With the originals tastefully complemented by a couple of standards, the Styne/Cahn classic ‘I Fall in Love Too Easily’ (delicately latinised) and the Bob Dorough/Terrell Kirk Jr swinger ‘Devil May Care’ (which brings to mind Claire Martin, whom Moule slightly resembles in her ability to combine conversational informality with discreet artfulness), and the whole flawlessly performed by the core band of Wallace himself, bassist Mark Hodgson/Alec Dankworth and drummer Paul Robinson – sporadically supplemented by guitarist Mike Outram, shakuhachi player Clive Bell, saxophonist Alan Barnes and percussionist Paul Clarvis – this is a fine album that manages to combine immediate accessibility with considerable subtlety.
JAZZ UK FEBRUARY/MARCH 2009 By Brian Blain
A Lazy Kind Of Love
Although the band boasts top guns like Alan Barnes and Mike Outram as well as occasional haunting colours from Clive Bell’s shakuhachi, they are all deployed completely in the service of the songs by MD, pianist and organ player Simon Wallace, an absolute master of his craft. He can turn in those storytelling piano solos as well, check ‘Remind Me’. Most of the material is from the growing canon of work by Wallace himself and that brilliantly sharp lyricist Fran Landesman, who specialises in wryly humorous appraisals of love and a certain kind of metropolitan angst – searching for chemical comfort, wondering why we’re depressed – which peaks on the insinuatingly catchy ‘Living In Overdrive’. Moule can actually strut, but you have to wait until track 10, Bob Dorough’s ‘Devil May Care’ (boasting an insanely good bass solo from Alec Dankworth), for her to show it. So for once just forget about looking for jazz thrills and let the verbal intelligence, original tunes that you can actually remember and Sarah Moule’s truly outstanding voice get under your skin. They certainly did mine.
JAZZ TIMES (USA) Christopher Loudon June 2005
SOMETHING’S GOTTA GIVE (AKD239)
Not only does England’s Sarah Moule boast a stunning vocal spectrum-simultaneously tough and tender, warm and cool, sweet and salty-but she’s surely done more than any contemporary performer to preserve, protect and promote the stellar work of lyricist Fran Landesman. On her richly praised debut, It’s a Nice Thought, Moule showcased Landesman’s work with composer Simon Wallace. Now she’s back with another half-nod to Landesman, whose songs fill seven of the 14 tracks on Something’s Gotta Give (Linn), the balance of the album devoted to the words of Johnny Mercer. Moule does a superlative job of interleaving such Mercer classics as “That Old Black Magic,” “Days of Wine and Roses” and “Trav’lin’ Light” with the poetic likes of Landesman’s misty “Save the Photographs,” wittily sophisticated “How Was It for You?” and self-indulgently desolate “Down.” But the cherry on this rich layer cake is Moule’s closing rendition of Landesman’s most famous composition, the hauntingly gorgeous “Spring Can Really Hang You Up the Most.”
THE GUARDIAN – Friday November 26, 2004 – John Fordham
SOMETHING’S GOTTA GIVE (Linn)
This is the follow-up to British singer Sarah Moule’s It’s a Nice Thought, for the same label. That debut was devoted to the ironic and scalpel-sharp songs of London-based American lyric-writer and poet Fran Landesman, this one splits Landesman’s work and the Johnny Mercer songbook half and half. As on the first album, Moule has surrounded herself with very classy British jazz musicians, with guitarist Jim Mullen making a reappearance, and bop trumpeters Mark Armstrong and Steve Fishwick joining the imaginative tenor saxist Pete Wareham over the immaculate drumming of Paul Robinson. There are therefore plenty of solos to reflect the jazz muse that fuels Landesman, and Moule’s crystal-clear tones and subtle pacing balance the improv input by taking typically intelligent care of the lyrics. Her remarkable empathy with Fran Landesman’s songs (a double-act with pianist Simon Wallace) is still the strongest feature of this pretty traditional and straight-swinging set. Down, and Spring Can Really Hang You Up the Most, two of Moule’s most penetrating Landesman interpretations in live performance, are highlights.
01 November 2004
Crescendo & Jazz Music
Sarah Moule is one of the better singers among the new breed of British jazz vocalists, mainly because she improvises like a jazz perfomrner rather than just going through the motions like so many of today’s singers. Admittedly her intonation occasionally falters (for example, in the the opening track) but she securely negotiates the tricky intervals in a song like Spring Can Really Hang You Up The Most This is one of the seven tracks on the album which are Fran Landesman songs (mostly co-written with Simon Wallace) – an area that Sarah Moule specialises in – and she is excellent at delivering Landesman’s bitingly witty lyrics. Listen to how she interprets the ironical words of Down, a savoury hymn to depression (though shouldn’t Sarah’s voice swoop downwards on the final note?). The Landesman songs are skillfully interspersed with standards which have lyrics by Johnny Mercer: a guarantee of brilliance.
The experienced backing group tightly delivers the well-judged accompaniments, sypathetically arranged by Simon Wallace. This is only Sarah Moule’s second album but she is already a name to conjure with.
THE IRISH TIMES – INTERVIEW – 18 Jan 2005
Notice how the album charts suddently seem to be full of excellent young women jazz singers like Stacy Kent, Clare Teal and Jane Monheit? You’re a better man than me if you can convincingly explain why there’s such renewed interest in the classic jazz repertoire of songs by writers such as Cole Porter, George and Ira Gershwin and Rodgers and Hart but with the revival continuing, English singer Sarah Moule, judging by the quality of her current CD Something’s Gotta Give, might just be the next singer of standards to find herself shifting albums by the truckload.
Oddly enough it was listening to a pianist, rather than to a singer, which first introduced Moule to the profound satisfactions of jazz. “I really fell in love with jazz when I listened to Thelonious Monk” she reveals. I bought a £3.99 CD called Portraits and I couldn’t believe how beautiful the sound was. It made me want to cry. And I just thought, “That’s it, I’ve found the music I will never get bored with. I had been listening to modern soul but I found it lacking in musical depth and I couldn’t find the meaning I was looking for in those kind of lyrics. So Thelonious Monk was the turning point and then I discovered fantastic writers like Lorenz Hart and Johnny Mercer.”
Moule’s current CD entirely comprises songs written either by Fran Landesman, many of them in fact composed recently in collaboration with Moule’s pianist husband Simon Wallace, or songs by Johnny Mercer. “Fran really crafts the lyrics.” enthuses Moule. “I am lyric-led as a singer and Fran’s got an interesting intellectual and emotional take on life. I don’t have a dark outlook on life and so I want songs that have some kind of optimisim in them and although Fran can be very dark she’s also very funny and I tend to see the funny side in what she writes. And she is increasingly optimistic now and I appreciate that – on this album her songs aren’t dark, just thoughtful and thought-provoking.”
The Johnny Mercer songs on the album include That Old Black Magic, Days of Wine And Roses and Jeepers Creepers. “There’s fantastic craftsmanship in his songs and they’re so natural to sings as well because he uses everyday speech but in a beautiful, elegant way. But I have to say that That Old Black Magic is a monster of a song. It’s hard to sing because it’s long and you’ve got a huge emotional range that you have to sustain. And obviously there are two absolutely stellar recordings of the song by Ella Fitzgerald and Frank Sinatra so you feel like you have them looking over your shoulder when you record that. I thought a lot about the lyric and I tried to find my own angle on it and I hope I did – but it’s up to the people who listen to it to decide!”
Moule feels her singing style is continuing to mature. “An album is a record of a moment in time and then you carry on gigging and as you gig you develop what you’re doing and you get a new take on the music and the music you make just moves on. I’m constantly learning stuff about jazz and jazz harmony – it’s a huge learning curve”. Sarah Moule’s Something’s Gotta Give is on Linn Records. Interview by Trevor Hodgett
THE OBSERVER- 14th November 2004 – Dave Gelly
SOMETHING’S GOTTA GIVE(Linn Records)
The lyrics of Johnny Mercer and Fran Landesman have a lot in common. Both have a dry wit and the lightest of touches, contrive to suggest emotional depths beneath an urbane surface, and with each of them the words fit snugly inside catchy melodies. For some time now, Sarah Moule has been the semi-official voice of Landesman’s work, especially the more recent material, written in collaboration with Simon Wallace. So who better to perform these 14 songs by two such similar writers? Moule gives outstanding interpretations of Mercer’s cheerful title number and the nostalgic Days of Wine and Roses‚ together with the Landesman-Wallace Down‚ and How Was It For You?
JAZZ REVIEW – January 2005
SOMETHING’S GOTTA GIVE (Linn AKD239)
Singer Sarah Moule and her regular quartet – pianist/composer Simon Wallace, bassist Mick Hutton, drummer Paul Robinson – have done sterling work over the last few years bringing the songs of Fran Landesman and Wallace to the jazz public’s attention, and here they mix this repertoire with the work of another superb lyricist, Johnny Mercer, to produce a finely balanced, intelligent set. Moule is not a heart-on-sleeve emotion-wringer, but a thoughtful interpreter of a lyric, so Landesman’s unflinching self-scrutiny suits her well, and supported by some powerful guest performances from the likes of saxophonist Pete Wareham and guitarist Jim Mullen, ‘Something’s Gotta Give’ is both immediately enjoyable and thought-provoking.
THE OBSERVER – Dave Gelly
IT’S A NICE THOUGHT (Linn AKD192)
In lyricist Fran Landesman and composer Simon Wallace, Britain has one of the finest songwriting partnerships alive, and Sarah Moule brings their songs to life with wit and understanding. Landesman is the poet laureate of the borderland between urban hipness and emotional insecurity, a territory in which she finds an apparently endless supply of themes. Wallace’s melodies not only match the form and mood of the words to perfection – they are actual tunes, which makes a change. These songs can only come fully alive in a jazz setting, provided here by, among others, Jimm Mullen, Steve Waterman, Iain Ballamy and Tim Whitehead.
THE GUARDIAN – Friday November 15, 2002 – John Fordham
IT’S A NICE THOUGHT (Linn)
The British singer Sarah Moule deftly delivered this title track at a recent London gig featuring a rare appearance by its original composer, the London-based American poet and lyricist Fran Landesman. This debut set for the subtle and intelligent young vocalist features 14 new songs of Landesman’s, and Moule’s purring voice – honeyed in sound, subtle in timing and pitch, shrewd in weighting the music with meaning – maximises the lyricist’s repertoire of resigned humour, glimpsed tragedies and razor-sharp metaphor. Some fine musicians including saxophonists Iain Ballamy and Tim Whitehead, and jazz/blues guitarist Jim Mullen, enhance an impressive beginning for Moule. British composer/pianist Simon Wallace is economically apposite on piano.
22 August 2002
BBC Music Magazine
This is very superior cabaret fare: well-crafted original numbers that are sung flawlessly, and with slick accompaniments. Surprising then, that this is an entirely British production. Admittedly, the lyricist responsible, Fran Landesman, is a quintessential New Yorker – but she has lived in London for nearly 40 years. Beat poet turned club proprieter and musical writer, Landesman is best known for Spring Can Really Hang You Up The Most, written with Tommy Wolf and now part of the jazz standard repertoire. Though now in her seventies, age has not dulled the sharpness of Landesman’s pen. The pieces here, co-written with pianist Simon Wallace, provide a masterclass in brush-offs, put-downs and wisecracks.
Sarah Moule’s bell-like, well-enunciated and somewhat operatic vocal style is rather at odds with the cynicism in material such as A Suicide in Schenectady, but the pairing works and the quality of Moule’s voice is what connects the song with the listener. The backing band is a real bonus too, with welcome guest spots from, among others, tenorists Iain Ballamy and Tim Whitehead.
22 August 2002
Sarah Moule sings 14 songs by Fran Landesman (Spring Can Really Hang You Up The Most ) and Simon Wallace (co-composer various BBC comedy shows including Absolutely Fabulous) with warmth and assurance. What I like most about her style is the way she can sing with incandescent clarity in one phrase and sinful smokiness the next, this being especially effective in the superlative What Fools These Mortals Be. The lyrics are full of realism and the most scrutinous observation of us mortals now, this epitomised by When Your Computer Crashes. There is an absence of moon in June gloss but the musical style is very much in the mainstream tradition.
The recording quality is pure gold and there are delicious solos from Jim Mullen, Steve Waterman, Iain Ballamy, Tim Whitehead and Fayyaz Virji. Tune in My Head is a vocal duet with Ian Shaw featuring impeccably delivered twisting unison lines.
22 May 2002
Sarah Moule tackles a batch of new songs by lyricist Fran Landesman, in musical settings by Landesman’s current songwriting partner, Simon Wallace (who also happens to be Moule’s husband). As you would expect from the writere of Spring Can Really Hang You Up The Most, Landesman’s legendary wit and verbal dexterity is well in evidence on this latest batch of material, just as it was on Nikki Leighton-Thomas’ similarly conceived Forbidden Games.
Sarah Moule and her collaborators are sure-footed interpreters, even when the subject matter is very dark, as in A Suicide in Schenectady (spookily written for – but never sung by – the late Susannah McCorkle). The singer has a sweet, beguiling voice and a cool delivery, and captures the tone and fell of these bittersweet, cynical, but often funny songs to perfection. The supporting cast of instrumentalists is built around an excellent quintet, with Wallace on piano and Jim Mullen on guitar, augmented by guest spots by Iain Ballamy, Tim Whitehead and others, and guest vocals by Ian Shaw. If you like the jazz-cabaret approach, this is a classy and very enjoyable production.