Audra McDonald's highly anticipated third recording, "Happy Songs," will be released in stores on Sept. 17.
In a departure for the vocalist, who typically lends her voice to the work of young theatre composers, the CD will consist almost entirely of big band music from the early decades of the 20th century. The single modern cut is "See What I Wanna See," by Michael John LaChiusa. Otherwise the dates of songs range roughly 1927 to 1954.
"It's all big band music," she stated. "It's all from the '20s, '30s and '40s. There are a few cheats past then, but for the most part [it's from that time]."
The album illustrates McDonald's ongoing affection for Harold Arlen; the composer is represented by four tunes. One curve ball selection, "Bambalele," features McDonald singing in Spanish, and in Duke Ellington's "Blue Turquoise" she does not sing at all but vocalizes to the melody.
McDonald is backed up on the album by anywhere from four to 30 musicians, depending on the song. Ted Sperling is the music director. Tommy Krasker produces.
McDonald's first album, 1998's "Way Back to Paradise," was a surprise success for its label, Nonesuch. If was followed up by 2000's "How Glory Goes," a mix of old (Harold Arlen) and new (Adam Guettel) songs.
McDonald's solo Carnegie Hall debut, on Nov. 2, will consist entirely of selections from "Happy Songs."