Storm Large – Le Bonheur [TrackList follows] – + her band Le Bonheur – Heinz Records [10/7/14] ****:
Eliane Elias – I Thought About You – A Tribute to Chet Baker [TrackList follows] (5/28/13) – Concord Jazz CJA-34191-02 ****:
Our local soulful siren Storm Large certainly fits her name. She began singing in clubs in San Francisco. We remember her as a rather in-your-face singer with her band The Balls, on a quickie cruise up and down the Willamette River. She was a finalist on the TV show Rock Star: Supernova. She got terrific reviews for her role in the Portland Center Stage production of Cabaret. She wrote a book, staged an amazing one-woman show at the Center Stage, performed Kurt Weill’s Seven Deadly Sins with both the Oregon and the Detroit Symphonies, and then became the second songstress with the popular Pink Martini band when their lead singer had a throat operation.
Now under the auspices of Pink Martini and their leader Thomas Lauderdale, here’s her first CD on their label, Heinz Records. Her band is now called Le Bonheur, whence comes the title for the CD. It mixes tunes for the Great American Songbook with heavy metal, glam rock and French chanson. The arrangements are all varied and excellent – the press release calls some Technicolor. Four Portland performing names assist Storm on four tracks: singer/composer/performance artist Holcombe Waller, world music instrumental trio 3 Leg Torso, singer/performer/clown Puddles Pity Party and singers The von Trapps (yes, the children of The Sound of Music).
The Jacques Brel classic “Ne me quitte pas” has Storm smoothly shifting between French and English, and her harmonies on “Unchained Melody” with Waller are gorgeous. Porter’s “It’s All Right With Me” mixes Weimar Republic style with American fiddle playing backing. I don’t know if any of the musicians in the retro-chic-styling of Pink Martini had a part in this session, but maybe Storm has just been influenced by her appearing with the band.
This is a great CD of vocals, and this publication has not put an especially strong focus on pop and jazz vocals, but this one is a winner.
TrackList:1. I’ve Got You Under My Skin 2. Sacred Love 3. A Woman’s Heart 4. I Think It’s Going to Rain Today 5. Forbidden Fruit 6. N.I.B. 7. The Lady Is A Tramp 8. Unchained Melody 9. Ne Me Quitte Pas 10. It’s All Right With Me 11. Saving All My Love For You 12. Satellite Of Love 13. Stand Up For Me
Jazz vocalist, pianist, arranger and songwriter Eliane Elias has been one of the great imports from Brazil. Her piano duet album with Herbie Hancock won a Grammy nomination in 1995, and a Bob Brookemeyer album devoted to her compositions got a Grammy nomination in 2001. She was at one time married to trumpet player Randy Brecker, who is part of the septet backing her on this fine CD (it also has Oscar Castro-Neves on guitar and Victor Lewis on drums).
This 2013 album is her most recent, and though I personally don’t like Chet Baker’s vocals at all (I even pressed the Thumbs Down button every time one came up on my Pandora streaming), I love her interpretations of these 14 tunes. She’s also done previous album tributes to Bill Evans and Antonio Carlos Jobim, but I think I prefer the originals in those cases; however, not in this one. Smooth and sultry and a good throaty voice too, unlike Baker’s. Elias’ piano solos are also most original and swinging, and of course given plenty of attention on this album, unlike many vocal albums.
A fine release that might get some listeners to pick up some of her many previous CDs and really get into her special stylings. The only thing I might grouse about are the eight photos of Elias leaning against a wall in her black strapless. OK, so she’s 54 and still looks great. So what?
TrackList:1. I Thought About You 2. There Will Never Be Another You 3. This Can’t Be Love 4. Embraceable You 5. That Old Feeling 6. Everything Depends On You 7. I’ve Never Been In Love Before 8. Let’s Get Lost 9. You Don’t Know What Love Is 10. Blue Room 11. Just Friends 12. Girl Talk 13. Just In Time 14. I Get Along Without You Very Well