Once again, spunky vocalist Natasha Miller teams up with 83-year-old songwriter Bobby Sharp (Unchain My Heart, Don't Set Me Free), and this time, she’s got an album of destined- to-be jazz standards that outdoes everything she's produced to date.
The new CD Don't Move features 11 songs written by Sharp, most of which have never been recorded before. That makes this album something of an historic event in its own right. What makes it a musical event of the first order is Sharp’s songwriting, Natasha’s gift for flawless phrasing, and stunning arrangements penned by a group of musicians whose roots go deep and whose talents run to the top of their class pianists Bill Bell (Duke Ellington, Carmen McRae, Nancy Wilson), Larry Dunlap (Cleo Lane, Mark Murphy), Ellen Hoffman (Oakland East Bay Symphony, Linda Ronstadt), and Josh Nelson (Peter Erskine, Ernie Watts). Some of the arrangements call for a 3-piece horn section and a string ensemble to augment Natasha’s jazz trio. “It’s only a 9-piece band, Miller says, “but the arrangements are so full and the band so tight, I sometimes think I’ve got The Stan Kenton Orchestra or Nelson Riddle and his strings behind me.”
As she has in all her previous work, both live and recorded, Miller again demonstrates she can sing anything put in front of her (possibly even the phone book). Her voice harbors a rich palette of colors, sometimes sassy and insistent (“Don’t Set Me Free,” “Don’t Move”), sometimes sultry and ironic (”At Midnight,” “You Don’t Have to Learn How to Sing the Blues”), and sometimes wistful and longing, as in the haunting “Snow Covers the Valley,” with its hint of the tragic realities found in old Irish ballads. But even when she’s “A Prisoner of the Blues,” there’s no crying in her beer here. These are songs for grown-ups rendered by a 34-year-old artist who knows that even though fate may often deprive us from what we want, we keep on going anyway. What Natasha does is to bring these qualities together with finesse and power, delivering each song to the listener’s doorstep, where they don’t beg for entry, they come as familiar guests. Put all this together vocal color, a tone that runs from hushed to fills- up-your-heart, a touch of attitude, range and power with Natasha’s natural gift for just the right lyrical timing and you wonder how these songs could be sung any other way.