From My Life
February 5, 2017
Reviewed by Elliot Zwiebach for Cabaret Scenes
You may not be familiar with Judith Lander when you begin listening to this collection of musical gems, but, before the CD is over, you will become a fan who wants to know more.
Lander is a Canadian-based singer who has performed these 14 songs during her career, which enables her to find and capture the essence of each and deliver its message with clarity, intimacy and life experience.
She is a master interpreter of Kurt Weill—having appeared off-Broadway in the early 1970s in Berlin to Broadway with Kurt Weill—and she gives him full measure on the CD, particularly in a powerful reading of the expressive “Bilbao Song” (written with Bertolt Brecht, from Happy End), with its shifting moods and uneven rhythms. Running 5-1/2 minutes, the song gives Lander an opportunity to deliver a musical tour de force that demonstrates her strong acting chops as the world-weary, seen-it-all observer.
She offers a master class on singing in her languid, intense take on Weill’s “Lonely House” (written with Langston Hughes, from Street Scene), with a jazz-tinged, very contemporary-sounding reading that allows her to play with the notes at will. There’s also a silky take on Weill’s “My Ship” (Ira Gershwin), and a soft, evocative approach to “September Song” (Maxwell Anderson), with Lander combining the song’s two verses before singing the familiar refrain to a simple piano accompaniment.
Lander is equally brilliant in the Jacques Brel canon, having performed with the composer at Carnegie Hall and toured in Jacques Brel Is Alive and Well and Living in Paris. The CD includes a definitive version of the driving, mesmerizing “Marieke” (written with Gérard Jouannest), sung in English and Dutch; plus “Les désespérés” (“The Desperate Ones”)—a haunting, compelling song about down-and-out people living without dreams—and “La Chanson des vieux amants,” a sweet song about former lovers finding peace with the perspective of age (both also written with Jouannest).
The CD also offers a couple of Sondheims—a deceptively simple “Anyone Can Whistle,” with Lander delivering a beautiful extended final note; and a sweet version of the ever-wistful “I Remember” (from Evening Primrose).
Lander is warm and gentle on Stephen Schwartz’s appealing “Chanson” (the opening number from The Baker’s Wife), sweetly reflective on “Not Exactly Paris” (Michael “Mickey” Leonard/Russell George), and deeply meditative on the self-penned autobiographical “Little White House,” about her childhood. The album closes with “In My Life” (Lennon/McCartney), which sums up the thrust of the CD as Lander looks back on these songs from her life.
The CD is available at judithlander.com and through iTunes.