THIS Melbourne release is a breakthrough in leading-edge jazz vocals, with original material, live effects processing, six top musicians and the gifted approach of 28-year-old vocalist Tom Barton.
One of two non-originals from the 10 tracks is Bjork’s hit Hyperballad, taken at a slower tempo than the original and against a subdued sonic wash. The arrangements are by Barton and some employ improvised loops of his voice to great effect. There is electronic augmentation throughout and it fits perfectly. Barton’s voice is a soothingly smooth tenor, occasionally wordless — there’s some inventive scat onVessel — but always with profound expression, drawing on historic examples of jazz singers but injecting his personality and interpretations.
The backing is superb, with standout solos from pianist Joseph O’Connor, bassist Philip Rex, who co-produced the album, saxophonist Andy Sugg and guitarist Stephen Magnusson. Spencer the Rover, a traditional song, is an unexpected inclusion, beautifully delivered. This album heralds the arrival of a unique new talent in Australian jazz vocals.