She’s tried her hand at “‘Round Midnight” and “I Should Care,” and in a month or so, her “Body and Soul” duet with Tony Bennett will be released. In recent interviews she even revealed a yen to connect with skilled Brit improvisers such as Soweto Kinch. Amy Winehouse was partially shaped by jazz, raised in a home that regularly had jazz spinning (indeed, her father just dropped a disc of vocals that Amy assisted in curating). The inventive phrasing of the vocalists she absorbed helped develop the often chilling and occasionally odd choices she used to render a melody line. (Bennett said she had a little Dinah Washington in her.) One of the reasons Winehouse’s emotional clout was so deep was the fact that she’d pepper her tunes with licks that highlighted the lyrics in an utterly discrete manner. Here are five examples of her jazzier side.
Yep, the first few phrases ape Billie, no question. But during this this pithy glide through the Jones/Symes classique, which was set staple done in a guitar/voice duet, Winehouse moves into her own territory Whether cooing or rumbling, she gives her BBC audience a thrill, putting her swooping lines through some paces. There’s real power in the sustained “LLLLOOOVE” that marks the conclusion.
Winehouse opens her update with the same phrasing used by the masterful tenor saxophonist on his 1949 original, and negotiates a couple of whitewater passages (“baby let me get next to you”) with satisfactory aplomb. The dub snare effect is a big odd – it sounds like the singer would rather have the rhythmic reins loosened a bit – but she manages to careen around the melody regardless.
It’s a crazy little snippet with a crazy little piano accompaniment from Holland (which has a train wreck aspect), but it’s included here because in her short stab at rerouting the melody, she has an impulse to improvise in an unpredictable manner. It would have been fun to see where her trajectory took her in a longer performance with a more serious accompanyist.
In the pre-beehive days, she still had a glimmer in her eyes and yen to apply her instrument to some of the jazz gems she absorbed while growing up. Supported by the Brit pianist’s big band (or “Rhythm & Blues Orchestra” as the Holland’s backdrop proclaims), she rightfully puts a big dollop of lust into the lyric. It’s reminiscent of Phoebe Snow’s 1976 take, but it’s a tickle nonetheless.
Given the pressures of her personal life, the “lost lamb” reference fits a bit too well, turning Gershwin’s yearning plaint into a anthem of neediness. She does just fine swooping through the curves and the phrasing of the final “Won’t you tell him please/to put on some speed” colors outside the lines with an insightful stroke.