by Michael Caruso
After two weeks in a row driven indoors by inclement weather, the summer series of concerts in Pastorius Park returned to its intended setting in the park’s natural amphitheater to hear local jazz songstress Michelle Lordi. Backed by a band comprised of several of Philadelphia’s finest jazz instrumentalists, Lordi sang a program selected from the pop standard and jazz repertoires that delighted an audience that packed the park Wednesday evening, July 22.
Lordi — along with pianist Orrin Evans, guitarist Sonny Troy, tenor saxophonist Larry McKenna and drummer Anwar Marshall — opened Wednesday evening’s concert with “This Time the Dream’s on Me.” It turned out to be a perfect choice because it established the musicians’ distinctive take on the standard form used by jazz vocalists and bands for generations. Lordi sang the opening verses of the number with only minor touches of decoration, then stood back to give her bandmates the chance to shine through their own embellished versions of the tune, only to retake the spotlight to round off the song.
Lordi’s voice is exceptionally sweet, almost delicate (but in a very good way), not weak but expressive. Her singing focused the listener’s attention on a vulnerability that brought the performer and her audience together on an equal plain of shared humanity. I felt that Lordi was letting us in on a small but seminal secret: we’re all in this together.
And so, when Lordi performed “They Say that Falling in Love is Wonderful,” her interpretation convinced you that she was wishing that falling in love really was wonderful. I was amazed at how slowly she took her next selection, “I Know What Time it is Now,” and then even more amazed at how well she pulled it off. The melodic line never sagged, and the narrative never faltered.
Lordi displayed a flawless command over pitch, even with virtually no vibrato to cover any imperfections of tuning, in “I Fall in Love too Easily.” She then effectively picked up the pace in “Thou Swell” and “Do I Love You? ‘deed I Do,” where her singing was every bit as commanding at a fast tempo as it was at a slower pace. That’s the real mark of an accomplished vocal artist accompanied by a superb band.