Black Gardenia takes a romantic approach on No Moon at All
No Moon at All (Independent)
With the moon (or its lack) in the title track and a couple of other songs, it’s not surprising that Black Gardenia’s debut disc is late-night and romantic in feel. The acoustic quartet plays vintage music ranging from the ’20s to the ’50s, but the band and guests don’t attempt to be hard-core retro. Arrangements are simple and tasteful, fitting the songs like long silk gloves. For a studio recording, there’s a refreshingly live-and-relaxed atmosphere.
The voice of Black Gardenia’s British-born singer and ukulele player Daphne Roubini draws inspiration from Billie Holiday. But she brings a perky London flavour to the old show song “Paper Moon”, and a western-swing version of “Dirty Old Town” by folk legend Ewan MacColl. The instruments embellish and frame the vocals, and solos are brief. Jimmy Roy’s ghostly lap-steel guitar shines like a silver thread on Hank Williams’s “Cold, Cold Heart”, and Chris Davis’s occasional muted trumpet adds polish to the jazz classic “Caravan”. Roubini’s ukulele, strummed or quietly picked, is boss on No Moon at All, however, and the production’s less-is-more approach rightly puts the focus on warmth and ambiance.