Ranee Lee – Maple Groove
(Justin Time – 2004)
by Barry Johnson
On Maple Groove veteran jazz singer Ranee Lee celebrates the Great Canadian Songbook with her session of songs by some of Canada’s most noted composers and lyricists. Although songs like If You Could Read My Mind are familiar to the whole world world, Lee takes them and interprets them with a sensitive ear, giving them her own flavor. A native of Brooklyn, Ranee has spent the last thirty-five years living and performing in and around Montreal, becoming one of Canada’s most popular jazz vocalists.
Ballads, such as Maybe September, reveal her strongest quality… her ability to prance through our hearts with expression that comes from somewhere deep within her soul. When she sings Oscar Peterson’s Hymn to Freedom a cappella, with a talented vocal ensemble from McGill University, she is absolutely convincing! The emotion and depth she delivers on It Looks Like Rain is reminiscent of some of Billie’s smoother days. Her understanding of the material and genuine reflections carry us home every time.
Tradition takes a slight right turn on Spinning Wheel as Lee introduces her grandson Darrell Henegan, Jr., with his amplified rap vocal conclusion to the song. Not altogether bad thing, I think his finale makes a better rendition of the classic rock tune than Lee’s because her voice lacks the vibrancy required to really capture David Clayton-Thomas’s original favor.
This is a collection of cover songs and as such I’d recommend it to those that are into the songs that Ranee presents on this release. If you like the songs, you’ll love the CD because Ranee Lee does a fine job of delivering them to you. 3.5 stars.