Toronto
2 min

Standard bearer

Agents take note

ADI BRAUN. Jazz standards. Credit: Xtra files

It’s tough being a standards and jazz singer nowadays. While the music itself has never been more popular, judging from the success of Diana Krall, Jane Monheit and Michael BublĂ©, everybody – from Robbie Williams to Rod Stewart – and their major record label wants in.



Some have honoured the standards; others merely lowered them. What’s an independent singer to do?



Adi Braun’s Delishious, a sometimes wondrous, sometimes merely competent collection of songbook standards (and the odd new composition), is certainly an alternative in more ways than one.



Better known as a Juno Award-winning classical singer, Braun – an out and proud lesbian – has developed a fan base of late in Toronto’s cabaret and jazz scenes (in that order). Listening to Delishious, it’s not too difficult to see how she survived the transition from opera to standards intact (a feat that’s eluded opera singers like, among others, Jessye Norman).



Braun has a dramatic, lively approach to songs like the seductive title track, a rarely heard Gershwin tune, and in quieter, love-blissed moments, as in “More Than You Know” and “The Nearness Of You,” she captures the songs’ essential romanticism and sweet aching in just few notes. Love, Braun proves, hurts even when you’re basking in it. (These two songs, out of a total of five in Delishious, were also recorded by Barbra Streisand between 1962 and ’67; Braun is indeed a brave gal.) As Doug Riley’s sumptuous piano gives way to Braun’s breathy voice in “More Than You Know,” singer, pianist and song are locked in a beautiful musical embrace.



While such moments aren’t sustained, count on Braun to give perfectly crafted renditions of any given song – without ever making it her own. Somewhere between the cabaret venue and the recording studio, something was lost and a host of different influences picked up. There are traces of Audra MacDonald’s blues-tinted mezzo-soprano, Maureen McGovern’s polished coloratura and a bit of Ute Lemper’s lasciviousness. It’s an impression further strengthened by the hodge-podge selection. Without a discernable theme, Delishious feels like a showcase for Braun rather than a satisfying record. Whatever camp value classics like “Mister Sandman” or even “The Girl From Ipanema” now have, they’re ultimately novelty, overly familiar songs. Why record them unless you have a radical take on them?



Now that Braun has proved she can do anything she sets her voice to (agents, take note), it’s time to pick and choose what to do with the gift and the endless wealth that is the standards.



DELISHIOUS.

Adi Braun.

Blue Rider Records. $21.