Out of This World
Many artists have recorded Jazz solos but Michael Cotton & Nikola Monfort have created a male female close harmony duo reminiscent of the 1940's A collection of songs written by composers Harold Arlen and/or Johnny Mercer. Michael Cotton and Nikola Monfort, together with Musical Director Paul Higgs, have recorded 13 tracks, incorporating close harmonies and updated arrangements. "Many artists have recorded these well-loved songs but we wanted to take a new stance on them. We've always loved the music of yesteryear: Doris Day, Dean Martin, Judy Garland and Ella Fitzgerald to name a few and although many of these songs are regularly performed as solos, it occurred to us that some of them are wonderful duet material, so we created a male female duo with a sound reminiscent of the forties". 'Out of this World' is a project that Michael and Nikola have been contemplating working on for some time and not only includes songs by both Arlen and Mercer together but also their collaborations with other accomplished writers. The album contains favourites such as Get Happy, That Old Black Magic and Let's Fall In Love as well as lesser known songs, P.S I Love You and the title track Out of this World. Aided by musical director Paul Higgs they have chosen a selection of songs by Harold Arlen and Johnny Mercer as the vehicle for their interpretations. Many of these songs are established jazz standards. Although Cotton and Monfort retain some jazz elements their delivery also reflects the origins of the songs as show tunes. Their influences include Doris Day, Dean Martin and Judy Garland as well as Ella Fitzgerald. Both Cotton and Monfort have a background in theatre, dancing and West End musicals and this comes across in their sassy, extrovert versions of 'Accentuate The Positive' and 'Let's Fall In Love'. I'm more at home with the stripped down, blues inflected approach of 'Come Rain Or Come Shine', which to me shows Monfort's voice in it's best light. She is excellent here and is well supported by the versatile Higgs at the piano. Higgs also contributes guitar, trumpet and melodica over the course of the album. 'Laura' is one of a number of tracks to feature Latin rhythms, a reflection of Monfort's Spanish ancestry and her love of dance. This version features the warm vocal of Cotton. The title track showcases the duo's close harmony work and is undeniably well executed. 'Old Black Magic' is extrovert and brassy, it's Latin rhythms featuring drummer Geoff Lardner and percussionist Graham Cutill. Saxophonist Mark Allaway also shows up strongly. 'P.S. I Love You' is another feature for Monfort and the sparse backing of piano, Lardner on brushes and Allaway on tasteful tenor is just the ticket. 'Paper Moon' is a bouncy duet with scat vocals from Cotton and Monfort and 'I'm Old Fashioned' also sees them sharing the vocal duties. 'Old Fashioned' is probably my pick of the duet numbers with Allaway's clarinet adding much to the enjoyment. 'Charade', also a duet, benefits from a skilful arrangement and Higgs' distinctive melodica. 'Blues In The Night' is just a great song and Jerome Davis' resonant bass and Higgs' growling, bluesy trumpet add much to the atmosphere. 'Autumn Leaves' is a feature for Cotton with sympathetic backing from Higgs at the piano. There's no doubt that he's good at what he does. An exuberant 'Get Happy' takes the album out on a swinging note, the breezy vocals backed up by a punchy brass arrangement. Those who are already fans of this style of music should find much to enjoy here and there is no doubt that Cotton and Monfort are highly accomplished singers and entertainers. The loving arrangements of Paul Higgs and the instrumental contributions of the individual musicians are also worthy of praise. Ian Mann/ 24 dash It's a great recording, obviously great singers. Sarah Cropper, Beleza Productions Very professional, well-produced and arranged Duncan Heining, Jazzwise.