Celia Berk ★★★★★

You Can’t Rush Spring
Grammercy Nightingale Music Company

One of the more auspicious debut recordings of recent years, Celia Berk’s You Can’t Rush Spring is an intoxicating revelation!  An elegant vocalist with an instinctive attention to lyrics and a straightforward delivery, Berk’s unerring musical taste is exceeded only by her superb choice of collaborators.  Whether she’s singing standards like Jimmy Dorsey & Paul Madeira’s  “I’m Glad There Is You,” show tunes like Leslie Bricusse & Anthony Newley’s “This Dream,” an obscure Sondheim gem like “Sand,” or the contemporary title ballad by the incomparable Ann Hampton Callaway, Berk’s plush-toned mezzo caresses the melody while her incisive delivery gives each lyric just enough ‘bite’ to intrigue the listener.

Wisely, Berk has enlisted the invaluable musical director and arranger, Alex Rybeck, to oversee her first outing and the results are both rapturous and understated.  Rybeck, long regarding as one of the best in the business (notably for his work with the sublime Liz Callaway and the suave Jeff Harnar), understands how to arrange a song to show off a singer to her very best and his work on You Can’t Rush Spring is another feather in his cap.  From the dreamy bossa nova of Billy Goldenberg & Alan & Marilyn Bergman’s “I’ve Been Waiting All My Life,” to the breezy lightheartedness of Burton Lane & Alan Jay Lerner’s “You’re All the World to Me,” to the jazzy brass of Kander & Ebb’s “It’s the Strangest Thing,” Rybeck provides Berk with multiple, vivid landscapes on which she can paint her portraits – and Berk seizes the opportunities with wit and intelligence, not to mention a full palette of paint!

Wonderfully, as a recording You Can’t Rush Spring is an eclectic tour-de-force for the listener, filled with interesting and unexpected songs from a variety of musical sources.  How nice to hear Berk croon Harry Warren & Mack Gordon’s “Friendly Star,” a still under-appreciated Judy Garland number from Summer Stock (and one of my favorites), as well as Arthur Hamilton’s gorgeous “Rain Sometimes” which will undoubtedly make the great Julie Wilson smile since it’s a song she has long championed.  Finally, how can you not love someone who concludes her disc with silly nonsense like “The Broken Record” by Cliff Friend, Charlie Tobias & Boyd Bunch.  Taking her cue from vintage Streisand (“Sweet Zoo” and many more) and, more recently, Annie Lennox (“Keep Young and Beautiful”), Berk’s desire to leave her listeners with a smile is as laudable as it is smart.  Like Lee Wiley, Julie London and the late, great Mary Cleere Haran, Celia Berk is a subtle storyteller.  This classy recording only confirms she has many more stories to tell.

Gramercy Nightingale Music Company

 Celia Berk