With "Brass In Pocket" Chrissie Hynde Delivers a Jazz Album

It takes a rocker with "brass in pocket" to deliver a jazz album. It takes more than that to produce a great one, which is what Hynde does on Valve Bone Woe, the title of which was her trombonist brother's "beatnik haiku" response to hearing about the passing of Bob Brookmeyer. Hynde here is no jazz pretender.

Let's leave aside that on the back cover the 68 year old with two kids looks great! More importantly she sound great on this 14 song, well-chosen set backed by a "small band" plus brass and winds-rich orchestra and a string section that sounds and is large (30 strings in all).

Hynde refers to the album as a Jazz/Dub record, but how its characterized isn't important. Her mission statement says "Jazz got sidelined by Rock & Roll in the 60's, but now the demise of rock seems to be heralding in a newfound interest in it, the most creative and innovative musical forms of the 20th century. I'm happy to jump on the bandwagon."

You'll be happily climb onboard when you find out how it's been produced, arranged, recorded and presented. This self-produced and I assume funded effort is 100% "top shelf" beginning with the orchestral and string recordings done at Air Studios with most of Hynde's vocals apparently recorded there as well. The engineer Tom Bailey gives you the big de-sanctified church's room sound behind the orchestra and strings in a strictly "old school" plenty of mike leakage recording that you're sure to appreciate.

Were it not for Hynde's passionate singing, the smart, daring and sometimes busy arrangements by Marius de Vries and Eldad Guetta would star and overwhelm, but as it is everyone shines. Hynde doesn’t have a big voice, but it’s big enough and she makes up for size with intimacy. She covers nothing with excess reverb, nor is any required.

The smartly accomplished A&R work and tracking has Hynde covering everything from the opening, sassy oft-covered octave jumping “How Glad I am” directly into Brian Wilson’s “Caroline No” to Frank Sinatra’s “I’m A Fool To Want You” with Hoagy Carmichael’s “I Get Along Without You Very Well (Except Sometimes)” ending an eclectic side. The dub elements can be heard behind the orchestra, particularly behind “Caroline No” where echoey reverb ripples punctuate the space behind the orchestra throughout and like waves, break across the song’s ending. The string-drenched “I’m a Fool to Want You” follows to smooth out the dub disruption.

Other covers include Mingus’s “Meditation on a Pair of Wire Cutters” (instrumental giving the orchestra some stretch time), “Wild Is the Wind” (daring given Bowie’s cover, not to mention Nina Simone’s), Nick Drake’s “River Man”, Coltrane’s “Naima” (a dreamy instrumental take with lots of room space behind the ensemble, with a Pet Sounds reminiscent arrangement) and one before the closer Ray Davies’ “No Return” from The Kinks’ 1967 albumSomething Else. Make of the former lover’s lyrics what you wish: “For you were my first love, And now it looks like you’ve gone, And I have waited too long”.

Most importantly, Hynde is in fine interpretive voice. On her early Pretenders records she exclaimed and declaimed somewhat non-tunefully more than she sang melodically but here she exhibits a finely-honed vibrato, a wide range and a mastery of each song’s meaning. Jobim’s “Once I Loved”, backed by a sumptuous arrangement Claus Ogerman might love clearly demonstrates that. She gives Diana Krall a run for her swinging simplicity money. Not kidding!

Everything about this package demonstrates Hynde’s commitment to high quality. The gatefold jacket space isn’t wasted. On the left inside you get songs and full publishing credits plus every player named with which tracks they are on, plus of course production credits. The right side consists of session photos. Even the graphics were smartly turned (and copped from Epic and Columbia Records!). Maybe Boomers growing up with The Pretenders never imagined The Pretenders’ “chick singer” covering “Hello Young Lovers” from Rodgers and Hammerstein’s “The King and I” but Chrissie Hynde has lived it, earned it and delivers it.

The vinyl mastering by Eric Boulanger at The Bakery, cut half-speed on Stan Ricker’s lathe is full-bodied and with four sides with which to work, dynamic and transparent.

Plenty here to keep the ears, mind and heart occupied. Hey Boomer! I can hear your “man of few words” brother saying “Hey, sis, you can effing sing jazz!”

Music Direct Buy It Now

mraudioguru's picture

...a 7 X 7" Box Set available. Thanks for the heads up! I would have probably missed this.

AnalogJ's picture

I can't imagine that 7" discs, aside from being a novelty, are the best way to hear this, particularly with the often dense orchestration.

mraudioguru's picture

...they were. Just an additional option.

AnalogJ's picture

I wasn't leveling a criticism at you. I just didn't see the LP version, and I'm wondering why they put an album like this out on 7" discs. What a waste of money.

Tom L's picture

All the usual formats are right there.

Roy Martin's picture

...hated the "mission statement."

Anton D's picture

I will audition this on Tidal before I will commit, but you will get credit for the hook up if I like it!

I hope it's as good as Dylan's take on the standards! ;-D

Fsonicsmith's picture

I picked it up a month ago on someone's suggestion. I love it, and I am not a huge fan of this genre. What was surprising to me is that I bought Stockholm soon after it came out and hate it. Even "Dark Sunglasses" does not withstand repeated listens. I was ready to write Chrissie off. Perhaps she took a page from the Joni Mitchell playbook though that would be unfair to Joni since she always had an element of jazz to her singing style. And, Chrissie branched out previously while with the Pretenders in "Isle of View" with a full orchestra backing up the band so there is that.

Chemguy's picture

...this is a digital recording, then?

Anton D's picture

I couldn't find any links to how it was recorded.

I am going to keep looking.

Interesting question.

Since it is so hard to find the info, I would suspect digital...not that there's anything wrong with that.

Michael Fremer's picture
Probably and even if not since it was cut at The Bakery, it was sourced from a high resolution file. That's all he cuts from, but the recording is excellent and good room and good mics and good engineer can produce good results.
Anton D's picture

As a vinyl fan who is not a digi-phobe...

When a digital recording sounds better on vinyl, where does the magic step take place?

Likely multiple things, mixing, mastering, pressing, but it would be fun to ponder where the "soul" enters the chain.

This has been a fun thread, thank you.

Mazzy's picture

Does it matter if its digital or not? The record sounds wonderful so enjoy the music and don't get wrapped up in the source if it sounds great. IMHO

Chemguy's picture

...and I have a host of digitally sourced vinyl that sounds great. But there is a lot that doesn’t. Funny, I’m listening to the cd of Dylan’s Together Through Life right now and it’s so compressed, jacked up, and brickwalled that I’m far too afraid to get it on vinyl. It’s loud and the amp is barely past 6:30!

What’s true enough though, is that Michael says this record sounds great...so that’s enough to go on. You’re right there, Mazzy.

But in defence of my initial post...this is an analogue site, and not just a vinyl site. So my question does have relevance. And when the artist or label is not forthright with the information as to how the album was recorded, then I do get a bit miffed.

Montpier's picture

Might look on paper like another "rocker does jazz standards" affair but Chrissie's take is much more eclectic and successful than expected. Takes mucho brass to take on Mingus's Meditations. How about a full "Chrissie Sings Mingus" album a la "Oh Yeah"?

Jancuso's picture

Reading this is so exciting! Love Chrisse in ALL her configurations. And knowing that it was cut on Stan Ricker's half-speed lathe, which was once upon a time Reference Recordings lathe when Stan used it to cut for RR, is fantastic news!

Lemon Curry's picture

It's been in a heavy rotation in my home for a while. Totally agree with comments on quality in every dimension. Sounds great, looks great, feels great.

Mazzy's picture

This album made my best of 2019 list. Sounds great and the arrangements are wonderful. Not some old rocker regurgitating covers. It is probable in the top three of last year and Ive been playing it in heavy rotation since last September.

Nice to see your review.

ChrisM's picture

I heard Hinde's version of "I'm a Fool to Want You". Well, I must first say that your readers are very elegant not to talk about Billie Holiday's outstanding performance (Sinatra's is surpassed), compared to Mrs. Hinde's dull work.
I have absolutely no understanding of Mrs. Hinde's willingness to run straight into a brick wall.

Michael Fremer's picture
Anyone including Ms. Hynde is comparing her work to Sinatra's or Holiday's but that doesn't mean other people shouldn't sing the song.
Maurizio Maggi's picture

Hi, everybody!
this is my first message and I thank Mr. Fremer for this fantastic website and for his Youtube channel!

About this LP, I was wondering if others have found that
the voice is very metallic.
On my stereo system it´s so and I wonder if it´s right in my configuration:
Trasnrotor Max turntable
Goldring 2100 head
Unison s8 valve amplifier
iFi Micro iPhono2
silver cables between turntable and Phono Amplifier
Supra Quadrax Cables
Tannoy Cheviot boxes 70s

just me?

Thanks Maurizio

(I´m From Munich, Germany, That's why I have a Trasrotor!)

Zardoz's picture

metallic sounding on my system. Very lush sounding, both music and voice.

Oracle mkVI v2
Graham Phantom III
Benz LPS
Krell Reference phono
Krell 202 pre
Krell 750Mcx
Apogee Diva
Transparent Audio cables

I can't stop listening to it. It's in extreme heavy rotation.

Good Listening,