It’s better to travel

This review arrives two years late, especially in light of the fact Ann-Sally will have released two additional albums — both on the same date, April 9, 2003 — by the time this one “goes to press”.

But Ann-Sally’s luscious voice deserves some press, even if it isn’t exactly punctual.

Released in 2001, Ann-Sally’s debut album, Voyage, is an interpretative work — mostly covers and standards alternately arranged in jazz and bossa nova styles.

The Korean-born, Japan-based singer doesn’t exactly go for the obscure — the album contains such familiar tunes as Henri Mancini’s “The Days of Wine and Roses”, Charlie Chaplin’s “Smile”, Joni Mitchell’s “All I Want” and “Both Sides Now”.

But it’s these songs which allow listeners to gauge Ann-Sally’s skills, and boy does she have ’em.

“Both Sides Now”, in particular, is a magnet for sappy interpretation, but Ann-Sally keeps her version lean — a piano, a double bass, and her smooth voice.

Bossa nova covers are prone to backfire — see Hatakeyama Miyuki’s version of the Rolling Stones’ “Sympathy for the Devil” — but Ann-Sally has enough charisma to make arrangements of “Days of Wine and Roses” and Marcos Valle’s “The Face I Love” work.

Voyage doesn’t get overly lush, sticking to a house band of classical guitar, double bass, and minimal drums. Only on Robert Quinn Wilson’s “He Loves You” does Ann-Sally let in an electric piano and bass.

Strangely enough, Ann-Sally doesn’t sing a single song in her native Japanese. Most of Voyage is in English, with “O Barquinho”, “Emoldura” and “Velas” in Portuguese. She has a noticeable accent, but it doesn’t interfere with anything.

(Which says a lot. UA, bless her, is a gorgeous singer, but her English can get a bit muddled.)

Japanese albums tend to get over-produced, which makes the tactful restraint exercised on Voyage entirely refreshing. Ann-Sally, the singer, is front and center on this album, as she should be. Even if the material isn’t earth-shattering, Ann-Sally’s voice is.