Illyria Records

"My ship has sails that are made of silk .... and of jam and spice, there's a paradise..." sings Anne Kerry Ford on her new CD, Weill, and her voice sometimes resembles the smoothness of that silk and other times there's quite a bit of the spice. In that classic ballad, "My Ship," and most of the others, she finds more vocal colors and attitudes within one song than some singers present over the course of an entire CD. By the time the album ends with a noble yet pleading "Lost in the Stars," she has run the gamut. Anne sees and seizes many opportunities to bring out the potential of colorful words and lines - switching from a sweet tone to a harsh one, spitting out a phrase, letting go with a real cry in her voice and taking full advantage of a pause. With the dramatic and emotional theater songs all with music by Kurt Weill, she has material that can let her give full reign to her instincts and talents as an actress. Her acting resume includes everything from a Broadway stint as Grace in Annie to Shakespeare to a soap opera. She was also in the 1990 Broadway revival of Weill's The Threepenny Opera. From that score, Anne takes on the powerful "Pirate Jenny," "Solomon Song" and in an effective duet with Brian Lane Green, "Tango Ballad." All use the Marc Blitzstein translation of Bertolt Brecht's German lyrics. (Most of the CD was recorded live before an audience in the composer's native Germany, but except for a couple of lines, she sings everything in English.)

Weill's music has been an interest for some time, as revealed in a 1999 interview with Talkin' Broadway shortly before she began performing the songs coinciding with the composer's centennial. Wisely, she offers some relief from some of the famous heavy and, let's face it, depressing material with the satirical "Progress" (lyrics by Alan Jay Lerner, from Love Life) and a playful, upbeat "One Life to Live," having fun with Ira Gershwin's witty lyrics from Lady in the Dark. "Tschaikowsky" from the same musical is less successful, as its claim to fame is as a tongue-twister at top speed, and done at a more comfortable pace, the long list of classical composer names comes off just like literally singing the phone book.

I admire this performer's fearlessness. Anne goes for broke in the melodramatic "Surabaya Johnny" and rages and sobs through this angry piece, presenting a believably tortured character. She rips through "I'm a Stranger Here Myself" (words by Ogden Nash, One Touch of Venus) with bravura and sarcasm, showy vamping and assertive sashaying as the brass blares. She sure knows how to the make the most of chosen consonants, too, making them as crisp or tough as over-baked strudel crust. A few ballads are here, but one calmer selection showcasing the prettier parts of her voice would be welcome. But maybe that's what her other two fine albums are for: Something Wonderful, a collection of songs with lyrics by Sondheim and Hammerstein, and her first CD, which begins with a Weill melody, "Speak Low." You can sample all of three CDs at, a website more informative than many, with a personal account of her Weill concert. On all of her CDs, her work is enhanced by the contributions of her husband, the talented guitarist-producer Robben Ford, and sensitive pianist John Boswell. Here, her big band arrangements are by Roger Kellaway, with as much impressive variety as Anne has in her vocal and actorly choices - and that's a lot.

Talkin' by Rob Lester 5/18/2006