One night during a visit with the late Carol Fredette, an uncompromisingly smart and no-nonsense Manhattan jazz singer, I played her a ballad sung by a Brazilian vocalist she didn't know. Carol listened raptly, then responded with her highest compliment: ''She's talking to you.'' Pyrotechnics didn't impress Carol; communication and honesty did. She gave one of her prize students, Ben Cassara, this advice about reading a lyric: ''Don't think of how you would sing it. How would you say it?''
He paid attention. His onstage presence—intimate, friendly, and casual—reflects his singing, with its conversational, heart-to-heart directness. This album, his second, was produced by another of Ben's champions, the singer-pianist-songwriter Ronny Whyte, a longtime pillar of cabaret-jazz and a defining symbol of the New York night at its most worldly-wise.
That was the world that lured Ben out of the Bronx, where he grew up, to Greenwich Village in the '70s. There he got himself hired at a piano bar, Marie's Crisis, where he played and sang for a raucous crowd. It was Carol along with two other mentors, singers Marlene Ver Planck and Roz Corral, who taught him how to handle a lyric with finesse and a jazz pulse. Ben became a welcome regular at a string of New York and New Jersey clubs, including Jazz at Kitano, the Metropolitan Room, Trumpets, Shanghai Jazz. At this writing, Ben is a fixture at the East Village cabaret Pangea, where he curates a long-running jazz series.
His new album teams him with three of his first-call accompanists: bassist Boots Maleson, drummer Tim Horner, and pianist Josh Richman. He and Ben coarranged these songs in ways that freshen them without distortion… Four originals by Ronny Whyte feature the composer's elegant piano; the lyrics—by Jack Harrell, Francesca Blumenthal, and two by Roger Schore—have a New York urbanity, the kind that Ben handles so well. This album would have made Carol Fredette proud.
—James Gavin, New York City, 2022