It could be said that there are two types of jazz singers. Some function as instrumentalists, using the melody and lyrics as mere points of departure before they create abstract improvisations. The other type are those who are storytellers, digging deep into the meaning of the words they sing, paying respect to the composers’ melodies while still making each song their own. John Vance falls into the latter category.
Dreamsville features John’s interpretations of a dozen mostly vintage standards and “If You Go,” a haunting song that he co-wrote with pianist Jeff Colella. “It’s always a challenge when performing songs that have been around a long time, making them contemporary, fresh, and interesting, rather than rehashing someone else’s arrangement.” For this set, Vance is joined by Colella (who contributed the arrangements), bassist Trey Henry and drummer Kendall Kay, with two appearances by guest trumpeter-flugelhornist Stacy Rowles and three by guitarist Larry Koonse, who accompanies Vance perfectly on “My Foolish Heart.”
The melodies on Dreamsville, which include such standards as “I Hadn’t Anyone Till You,” “Invitation,” “Better Than Anything” and “Speak Low,” may be familiar but the interpretations are modern, heartfelt, and full of subtle surprises. Vance’s warm voice, which sometimes recalls that of Mel Torme in its tone, brings out the beauty and deep meanings in the lyrics. “My sentimental favorite on the CD is “Bluesette,” since I used to sing it for my daughter. I remember that Kendall Kay was messing around on the drums before we were going to record “Darn That Dream” and came up with a catchy funk groove. I was going to record a much more traditional version of that song but we liked Kendall’s rhythm so well that we thought it would be fun to use it. That’s why I like working with these guys; they keep on coming up with unexpected ideas.” Another surprise is “Dreamsville,” which proves to be quite effective in 5/4 time. Throughout the CD, Vance gives a great deal of warmth and understanding to the words he sings while swinging lightly.