Lily Swings is a tribute cd designed to celebrate both the songs of Billie Holiday and the life of Lily’s close friend and mentor, Ray Condo, himself a huge fan of Holiday. The Lily in question here is versatile Toronto vocalist Lily Frost: young, beautiful and just off-centre enough to be fascinating.
As well as exhibiting excellent judgment in her choice of tracks for the album, you'll find that Lily is not merely hitting the ‘cook’ button to revive these old tunes – she truly re-interprets everything, adding thoughtful, unexpected elements such as country twang – with an alternative twist to make it palatable – or souped up, smoking swing. In some cases, it’s the tempo variation but each time it truly works. There is nothing cringe-worthy on the whole record and for those who just recoiled at the word “tribute album” – don’t, because this is a superb, mature effort from someone who has really understood and experienced the heart of these songs. Lily also brings Ray Condo’s band “The Swinging Dukes” on board for the effort as well as pianists Greg Shea and Waylen Miki.
Frost has skillfully sidestepped the obvious covers too and instead presents some deliberate, classy choices from a more obscure canon of Billie Holiday songs, not necessarily well known to every listener. And again, those choices seem to be dependent on nothing more than the fact that the pieces happened to speak to her personally – she loves them – and are therefore worthy of sharing. Interestingly too, the songs were recorded in mono and then put through vintage amps to provide “grit and a clearly retro flavour” (thus quoth the liner notes) and that kind of attention to detail atmosphere really glows here.
As an aside, Lily has a great website with loads of information and photos and her bio is especially delightful. This is an important intro to Frost’s work and what she is capable of and hopefully will inspire listeners to learn more.
Lily does a stellar job of this one, but her vocals are so achingly raw and beautiful (the saxophone solo ably provided by Ross Taggart provides a short but luscious distraction) that it is almost unbearably good. Not for the recently broken-hearted or jilted for sure …
I Cried For You is upbeat, quirky and feel-good in spite of the title. There’s a joyous, my-turn-now feeling about this that really cooks and Lily’s vocals have a Patsy Cline lilt at times which is unusual but hey, it works. The band is a perfect foil for Lily’s singing and the follow her with uncanny, superhuman speed.
All of Me features some spectacular scatting with Lily showing just what she’s got. This is an inspired jazzed up version of this song and the band adds a good dousing of honky tonk as well. Excellent!
Players: The Core Band: Clive ‘Pops’ Jackson – Bass Fiddle; Steve Taylor, drums; Chris Dean, Guitar and Banjo; Greg Shea, piano sessions (Vancouver); Jimmy Roy, Pedal Steel Guitar; Waylen Miki, Piano (Toronto sessions) Terry Townson, trumpet and horn arrangements. Steve Hilliam, Clarinet and Tenor Saxophone,. Rod Murray, Trombone; Ross Taggart, Tenor Saxophone on “Solitude.’ Bob DeAngelis, clarinet on Love me or Leave me, I’ve Got My Love to Keep Me Warm, Them There Eyes Toronto sessions. Craig Scott, Vibraphone and Glockenspiel on I’ve Got my Love to Keep Me Warm Chris Plock, flute on Crazy He Calls Me .