Illyria Records

Sunday, June 4th, Jim Carnes, "The Sacramento Bee"

(Four Stars) This album, a collection of 15 songs composed by Kurt
Weill, is an obvious labor of love for actress and cabaret singer Anne Kerry Ford. She appeared on Broadway in the 1990 revival of Weill’s “The Threepenny Opera” (she also was Grace in “Annie,” among other acting stints) and has a real way with the German composer’s music. Weill is perhaps best known for his collaborations with lyricist Bertolt Brecht, but he also worked with Ira Gershwin (on the Broadway plays “Lady in the Dark” and “Where Do We Go From Here,” represented here), with Alan J. Lerner, Ogden Nash, Maxwell Anderson and even poet Langston Hughes (their “Lonely House” from “Street Scene” is one of the highlights of this set). Most of the songs were recorded live with the WDR Big Band in Philharmonic Hall in Cologne, Germany, and the set was produced by the singer’s husband, guitarist Robben Ford.

There are three songs from “The Threepenny Opera” and, thankfully, not one of them is the overdone “Mack the Knife.” Instead, Ford chooses “Tango Ballad” (a duet performed with Brian Lane Green), “Solomon Song” and “Pirate Jenny,” which receives a dramatic reading that is enhanced, no doubt, by the singer’s acting chops. “Surabaya Johnny,” a song that seemed perfectly suited to Bette Midler’s melodramatic attack when she recorded it on her 1973 self-titled album, is even more emotional and effective here. All the songs are excellent, but my favorites are the vampy, brassy “I’m a Stranger Here Myself” (lyrics by Nash), which opens the set, and “It Never Was You,” on which the singer’s voice so deftly caresses the lyrics by Anderson and accompanist John Boswell’s piano is perfectly supportive. -Jim Carnes, Bee staff writer