Keys to my heart

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Canadian Jazz Singer & Pianist Releases Her 6th Opus!

After a successful and diverse career of more than 20 years in almost every corner of the entertainment world, Anne Bisson returned to her first love, jazz, by releasing in 2009, Blue Mind, an album which brilliantly showcased her talents and musical creativity. Critics were unanimous, praising Anne Bisson as a natural jazz artist. With 35,000 albums in sales, she now releases a new album on which she is joined in the studio with two Los Angeles ‘Jazz Giants’, Joe LaBarbera on drums and Darek Oleskiewicz on acoustic bass.

This new album, Keys To My Heart, contains eleven songs. Two covers: “Killing Me Softly”, a perennial standard, “For Me, Formidable”, a beloved song from legendary French composer/singer Charles Aznavour, which Anne sings in both English and French, and nine new songs, co-written with Anne’s frequent collaborator and friend, Pierre Lenoir. These songs create a unique world, Anne’s world, where they tell involving stories with warm and expressive performances that confirm the tradition of artistry and high audio fidelity that Anne has been known for so many years.

Anne quickly realized that for the album to be fresh, and for her to feel totally at ease with the two musicians she would only meet on the morning of the first recording session, she had to place her trust once again in the hands of Michael C. Ross, with whom she had worked previously on her very successful Direct-to-Disc Four Seasons In Jazz album. Michael suggested she come down to Los Angeles to record at United Recording Studios in Hollywood, and that’s what took place on May 16 and 17, 2019.

Michael Ross says: “Studio B at United Recording is my favorite room in the world! Their microphone selection is second to none. It includes Neumann M-50s, AKG C-12s and AKG C-12As, Telefunken 251s and Neumann U-67s and U-47s. Their console is one of the few of its kind, a custom-built Neve 8068, with API 550a EQs on every channel.”

So be prepared to hear Anne Bisson’s voice as you’ve never heard it before. Anne’s writing and playing is beautifully enhanced by the other musicians, creating a spontaneous atmosphere where everyone was comfortable and it felt like they’d been playing together for ages.

Features of LP:

  • Hand-Numbered, Limited Edition – 2000 Copies First Pressing
  • Audiophile Quality 180g Vinyl
  • 45rpm Double LP
  • One Step
  • Mastered and cut by Bernie Grundman
  • Pressed at RTI
  • Gatefold jacket
  • 2 color inserts with lyrics and additional information
  • Recorded at United Recording Studios, Hollywood, May 2019

Musicians:
Anne Bisson, piano, vocals
Darek Oleszkiewicz, acoustic bass
Joe LaBarbera, drums

Anne Bisson’s talents cover many musical and dramatic styles. The French Canadian chanteuse sounds as good singing and playing The American Songbook as she does singing the songs of her native language. She’s a fine songwriter, too, in addition to a mainstay on Quebec TV as an actress and a presenter. It’s an LP showcasing her multi musical talents that I bring to you in this review. Keys to My Heart is a set of Bisson’s own songs, with one standard (‘Killing Me Softly)’ and a French song (Charles Aznavour’s ‘For Me, Formidable’) included to add a different style, a different spice. The balance of the eleven songs are all by Bisson in collaboration with lyricist Pierre Lenoir. The sum makes for engrossing listening.

My home province of Quebec has produced jazz/popular singers such as Nikki Yanofsky, Ranee Lee, Diane Dufresne, Diane Tell, Martine St. Clair as well as megastar Celine Dion. And while each is very talented, all have focused on one style, sometimes, one songwriter. The great Luc Plamondon comes to mind (Dion did a whole album of Plamondon songs before she conquered the world of popular music). However, far fewer artists combine a great voice with equally wonderful (jazz) piano chops—with jazz, a much more difficult proposition than a singer/songsmith banging out simple Tonic/Dominant on the ivories. Canadians are particularly good at this marvelous combination. In addition to the wonderful Bisson, I give you Diana Krall (Nanaimo, BC) and my supremo in this genre, Carol Welsman (Toronto, ON, now Los Angeles-based).

Bisson decamped La Belle Ville for Welsman’s adopted home to record the Keys to My Heart project. Bisson told me she was very interested in recording at United Recording in Hollywood with engineer/producer Michael Ross, and using two legendary LA jazzers, Joe La Barbara, drums and Darek Oles (Oleszkiewicz), bass, as the balance of her piano trio.

If you’re a fan of any of the singers/players listed above, then Bisson’s songs and performances will be right up your street. With her talent, both the Gimbel/Fox standard and the Aznavour chanson sound wonderful, but she also brings her lovely phrasing and very pleasing tone to her own compositions. Objectivity in one’s own music is often difficult. So, it comes as a very nice suprise that Bisson interprets her own songs from a proper perspective—no artifice, no cloying, just straight ahead ballads and up tempo numbers that are performed and interpreted with great style and flair.

The four 45 rpm sides begin with the Gimbel/Fox standard, but continue with Bisson’s ‘Icarus’, a lovely ballad, and ‘In a Whisper’, showcasing the outstanding bass of the Yamaha 7’ grand and clever multi tracking for harmony lines.

To contrast the ballads, try some fun. ‘Slip into My Limousine’ shows Bisson’s playful side with very clever and cool lyrics by Lenoir. Interestingly, Lenoir is an actor, musician, singer and songwriter also from Montreal. He began working with Bisson a decade ago, first as editor for her English, then as lyricist.

‘No Problem’ showcases the exceptional abilities of the two rhythm legends and Ross’ recording of them. Bisson’s piano’s tone is even and rich with an especially gorgeous upper register.

It’s the same for ‘Where Am I now’, a great song with a sophisticated groove featuring Bisson on her Fender Rhodes, one of my favourite sounds on records in this style.

Photo credit: United Recording, Hollywood, CA

Recording

The recording, engineered by Michael Ross, is a gem. Perfect balances between the three musicians. Like all good leaders on a gig, Bisson surrounds herself with excellence. And she’s more than happy to share and let the team members shine. Ross’ ears and recording prowess help produce what may become an audiophile benchmark.

Bisson met Ross during a Direct-to-Disc project with Bernie Grundman in 2016. Bisson told me ‘…she liked his musical approach and hifi sound oriented work. He co-produced Keys to My Heart with me and suggested I worked with Joe and Darek!’. A fortuitous 2016 meeting. Networking counts. The excitement and preparation was such, the recording was completed in only two days.

For the purists and completists: Ross loves United Recording, Studio B, especially (also a favourite of Radiohead, Beck and Green Day).

Their microphone selection is second to none. It includes Neumann M-50s, U-47s & 67s, AKG C-12s & 12As and Telefunken 251s. Their console is one of the few of its kind, a custom-built Neve 8068, with API 550s EQs on every channel. And their Yamaha 7’ sounds great’.

Ross has worked on recordings with artists such as Christina Aguilera, The Pussycat Dolls, Pink, Queen Latifah, Jerry Lee Lewis, Ella Fitzgerald and Diana Krall.

The Camileo Records pressings are flawless, silent with that pleasurable 180g heft. The entire production, from jacket design (with Bisson looking gorgeous wearing a pink jacket, black camisole and patent beige pumps), notes, lyric inserts, to different pastel colours for centre label stickers, exudes class. This release joins Janis Ian’s Breaking Silence and Tony Joe White’s Homemade Ice Cream (review forthcoming) as my 45 RPM reissue go to references when reviewing turntables, arms and cartridges.

With only 2000 pressings, purchase while you can.

Double LP (45 RPM deluxe 180g pressing) available at Bisson’s website.

Audiophilia readers, please use the promo coupon code ‘audiophilia’ at checkout during November 2020 for a discount (no affiliation/remuneration with/for Audiophilia).

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