With 16 songs and more than 64 minutes of music, It’s Magic is a sprawling epic of big-band jazz. If anything, however, the length may affect the overall quality of the album. Taken by itself, each song here is a masterpiece of orchestration and instrumentation, but, as many of them are subdued slow-dance tunes, some numbers that might otherwise be standouts begin to blend together by the end of the disc [this originally ran in July of 2000].
Percy’s voice is certainly a highlight, sultry and deep without sacrificing range. On the opener, an infectious version of Macio Brown and Arthur Freed’s “All I Do Is Dream of You,” you can hear the smile in her voice. While on Tom Adair and Matt Dennis’s “Everything Happens to Me,” her ironic tone highlights the wit in the lyrics. Clearly, her background in cabarets and revues has made her as much entertainer as vocalist, and her voice blends with Doane’s trombone as though they were instruments molded by the same craftsman.
As for Doane and the tenor saxmen Ralph Norris and Joe LaFlamme, their symbiotic relationship becomes quickly apparent on McHugh and Fields’s “Don’t Blame Me,” and continues throughout. Consistently, their wisps of background and precise solos provide the perfect counterpoint for Percy’s vocals. And on the instrumental numbers, particularly Cole Porter’s “Every Time We Say Goodbye,” it’s possible they’re singing, but you can’t quite make out the words.
The highlights of the disc, Ferreira and Antonio’s “Recado” and Horace Silver’s “Song for My Father,” also expose some flaws. For instance, Gerry Wright’s piano is so infectious on the Latin-flavored “Recado,” you wonder why they don’t pick up the beat more often. While “Song for My Father” almost smacks you in the face with grimy, down and dirty jazz reminiscent of Steely Dan’s “Rikki Don’t Lose That Number.” Why not a little more variety?
Particular note should be paid to relative newcomer Paul Jensen on the drums. His high hat is rock solid, capable of the subtle nuance as well as the driving beat. On Gordon and Monaco’s “I Can’t Begin to Tell You,” his brush work does nothing less than evoke wisps of smoke curling up around an imagined sequin-clad Percy. Al Doane’s bass, while silky smooth, doesn’t seem to get enough attention, only truly noticeable on Lester Young’s “Jumpin’ with Symphony Sid.”