THE SSJ ALL-STARS – From California With Love – SSJ-USA Records

by | Oct 10, 2011 | Jazz CD Reviews

THE SSJ ALL-STARS – From California With Love – SSJ-USA Records – SSL-USA 002, 49:51 ***:

The Fukushima earthquake and accompanying tsunami of March 11, 2011 resulted in a natural disaster of such immense proportions that individuals from all walks of life were moved to do whatever was within their power to assist. SSJ is a new Japanese record label which has a U.S. division, and accordingly, some of label’s American artists agreed to offer their services without compensation, to record a CD with the benefits from the sale to be used for disaster relief from this tragedy.
All of the artists, with one exception, currently reside in California, hence the title of the disc. Furthermore, most of the talent is relatively unknown to a wide jazz/pop audience. This fact does not make the project any less enjoyable. There are, however, several tracks which deserve particular mention. Sue Raney has been a singer of some note for many years. With Alan Broadbent on piano, her rendition of “Blue Skies” and “On A Clear Day” are pitch-perfect. Broadbent is no slouch both as an accompanist and soloist and has a proven pedigree as part of Charlie Haden’s Quartet West. His version of “Sweet And Lovely” is clear and precise.
Johnny Holiday should not be confused with the French singer and actor Johnny Hallyday. This Holiday is originally from Chicago who recorded a few albums in the 50s and 60s but dropped out of the music scene for a period. Since returning to singing, he has recorded a number of discs in conjunction with veteran reed man Sam Most.”Strike Up The Band” proves that his decision to return to a vocal career was the correct one. Tierney Sutton has been entertaining audiences for many years and has been nominated on several occasions for a Grammy for Best Jazz Vocal Album, most recently in 2007 for “On The Other Side”. Accompanied here by her usual sidekick Christian Jacob on piano, she delivers a flawlessly succinct version of “Beautiful Love”.
Most of the tunes on the remainder of the disc fall into the well-executed category, with the exception of the Chris Connor track ” I Feel A Song Coming On”. The inclusion of this offering is a mystery, as Connor was not a native of California, and in fact passed away in 2009. Her triple tempo version of the tune, which was poorly recorded, adds nothing to the disc and certainly does not enhance the legacy of this wonderful singer.
The disc contains some fine material and the concept is well-intentioned. So if the reader is looking for a way to support a worthy cause, this is as good as any.
TrackList: Blue Skies/On A Clear Day; Sweet And Lovely; Strike Up The Band; Skylark; Here’s To Life; Sweet Happy Life( Samba De Orfeu);Ue Wo Muite Arukou (Sukiyaki);Beautiful Love; We Can Work It Out; Dream; I Feel a Song Coming On; The Wave; You’ll Never Walk Alone.
—Pierre Giroux

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