Laurel Masse | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

Laurel Masse 

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Last year's release of Down in Birdland, a CD anthology of the Manhattan Transfer's recordings for Atlantic, had an unexpected effect on at least one listener: it had me pining for Laurel Masse, who left the group in 1978. When it comes to vocal equipment, Masse remains the best of the singers to have worked in that quartet, effortlessly gliding through a five-octave range with a stunning control of dynamics. (When she leaps into her upper register she doesn't have to jerk back from the microphone to restrain the volume, which alone sets her apart from 95 percent of the singers you've seen.) Part of Masse's success lay in her ability to blend this instrument with other voices; indeed, as their anthology demonstrates, the Transfer never sounded quite so balanced after she left. These days, working as a solo, Masse blends her instrument into her material, and often bonds with it, producing timelessly nuanced readings of an expanding repertoire. Her style does not make much room for flamboyance, and she eschews scat singing in particular and improvisation in general; she's still the woman who wants to sound "like I just fell from the sky, and nothing ever hurt me." Sunday, 8 PM and 9:30 PM, FitzGerald's, 6615 Roosevelt, Berwyn; 708-788-2118.

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Michael Schoenfeld.

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