Here in the UK, on the first evening of the year that could remotely be called sultry, Peggy Duquesnel’s latest album, Summertime Lullaby, makes for a classy hour on the terrace. The California-based singer has come up with some smooth arrangements for a clutch of well loved jazz standards, interspersed with four of her own compositions including the languid title track, which sets the scene for a thoroughly enjoyable set.
An upbeat “My Romance” swings along thanks to Duquesnel’s nifty work at the keyboard – she’s also an accomplished jazz pianist (she later lets fly with a free-flowing instrumental, “On Green Dolphin Street” and a cool “Mack the Knife”) – leading easily into another of her own songs, an elegant tribute to a long relationship, “In the Quiet Hours”. “Drivin’ Blues” will give a wry laugh to anyone who knows the bumper-to-bumper frustrations of the homeward commute, especially when there’s a date waiting at the end.
Duquesnel has assembled a sympathetic, fluent band – guitarists Grant Geissman and Mike Higgins, bass players Jim DeJulio and Ernie Nunuz, and drummers Kendall Kay and Dave Owens – who presumably take turns in the trio although they aren’t credited on individual tracks. Between them they generate a warm, sophisticated tone that’s epitomised in a boldly phrased “Fly Me to the Moon” and another instrumental, Billy Strayhorn’s “Take the ‘A’ Train”.
The album is dedicated to Duquesnel’s husband and culminates in a touching, spare version of “Stay as Sweet as You Are”, the perfect sign-off at the end of a tasteful journey around what is obviously a very personal musical landscape. It’s a perfect soundtrack for the magic hour, as evening turns to night.