LAUREL MASSE, who left Manhattan Transfer a couple of years ago, is now going it alone, and the same extraordinary gifts that first brought her acclaim illuminate her solo debut album "Alone Together."
Technically, Mass,e is a superb singer, with a skyrocketing four-octave range. Her uncanny sense of time and phrasing allows her to take a lyric like "Paper Moon" and fashion it into a brisk, boppish, horn-like improvisation with the utmost ease. In an entirely different mood, on "Theme for Lester Young" or "Interlude," her voice, now soft and lyrical, casts an entrancing romantic spell. Besides Young, Mass,e also pays tribute to jazz masters Horace Silver and James Moody before this gorgeous album concludes.
LAUREL MASSE -- "Alone Together" (Pausa PR 7165); appearing at Cates Restaurant through February 9.
SCAT CATS If you catch Mass,e at Cates and like what you hear, you might like to listen to some of the competition -- on vinyl. Here are some of the more impressive releases of late from female jazz vocalists.
MANHATTAN TRANSFER -- "Bop Doo- Wop" (Atlantic 7-81233-1). Divided between studio and concert recordings, this album finds Masse's old quartet covering some very familiar bop to doo-wop territory. The best tracks -- irresistible arrangements of "Route 66" and Duke Pearson's "Jeannine" -- sound as fresh today as when they were written. Unfortunately, most of the doo-wop is for the nostalgic-minded only.
LOREZ ALEXANDRIA -- "Harlem Butterfly, Vol. II" (Discovery DS-905). Alexandria's voice, soft and sultry, seems as if it were made with the Johnny Mercer songbook in mind. In fact, the name of one of the selections on this Mercer encore -- "Too Marvelous for Words" -- would serve this collection nicely as a subtitle. The arrangements are intimate, the singing splendid, the songs sublime. Volume III wouldn't be overdoing it.
TERESA BREWER -- "Live at Carnegie Hall & Montreux, Switzerland" (Doctor Jazz W2X39521). Brassy and bouncy big band arrangements suit Brewer's bravura delivery just fine, and this two-record set is brimming with them. However, it's the subdued "Romance in the Dark" and the affectionate Fats Waller tribute that linger in one's mind. Cameos by Dizzy Gillespie, Cootie Williams and Clark Terry add to the fun.
CLEO LAINE -- "Cleo at Carnegie" (DRG DARC-2-2101). Though not strictly a jazz album, this two-record concert performance makes the most of Laine's seemingly boundless voice and John Dankworth's colorful arrangements. There's plenty to recommend here, not the least being a warmhearted Hoagy Carmichael medley and Laine's virtuosic readings of "I'm Shadowing You" and "Crazy Rhythm."
ANITA O'DAY -- "Hi Ho Trailus Boot Whip" (Doctor Jazz FW 39418). Forget about the title -- a nonsensical throwback to the bop era. What's important to remember is that this is the kind of recording that made O'Day the envy of jazz singers and musicians everywhere. Recorded in 1947 after O'Day had already made a name for herself working with Gene Krupa and Stan Kenton, this album really gave her a chance to spread her wings and soar. Whether scatting, playing with the tempo or just singing her heart out on songs like "Key Largo" or "I Told Ya I Love Ya," her jazz instincts never fail her.