The debut record from singer Amy McConnell and trumpeter William Sperandei, with producer Douglas Romanow and executive producer Feisal Patel, is a stylish romp through 20th century music originating from a range of genres and eras. The title, Stealing Genius, is a reference to Oscar Wilde’s quip “talent borrows; genius steals.” But since covering other songwriters’ work is standard practice in the world of jazz, the quip could be reworked as “talent borrows; jazz artists assume ownership.” In this case, the victims of the thefts are varied and sometimes unexpected such as Elvis Presley (Suspicious Minds), Led Zeppelin (Thank You) and James Bond (From Russia With Love).
McConnell’s background in theatre shows in her vocal phrasing and approach — she has a big sound and emotions are expressed in broad strokes that play to the back of the house. Her accent is beautiful and convincing on the few French offerings including, of course, Piaf’s La Vie en Rose. Sperandei’s nice, bright sound blends well with McConnell’s and his soloing is confident and concise. Singer/stride pianist Michael Kaeshammer’s guest turn on the Ink Spots’ I Don’t Want to Set the World on Fire is inspired. But the real genius is in having Larnell Lewis and Rob Piltch play drums and guitar on this record. Lewis’ exuberant precision and Piltch’s subtle musicality elevate many of the songs from stylish to artful.