Variegated Vocalists

by | Mar 24, 2007 | Special Features | 0 comments

Variegated Vocalists


I’m really not a big vocal music fan, preferring instrumental music in all genres, and evidently many of our other AudAud reviewers are of similar mind, because a  fearsome stack of mostly jazz vocalist CDs has piled up in a corner needing reviewing.  What follows is a quick survey of most of them.  Readers should know that my tastes run toward singers with completely unique vocal styles, and most of them don’t really have what might be called terrific voices.  Examples: Mose Allison, Dave Frishberg, Bob Dorough, Blossom Dearie, Randy Newman, Billie Holiday, Lotte Lenya, Paolo Conte, Jack Sheldon. So ya’ know whereof I’s a comin’ from, OK?

LAÏKA – Look At Me Now! – Body & Soul  BS 2533:

Talk about cultural diversity! Laika Fatien is a Parisian-born singer with a Jewish Moroccan mother and Ivory Coast father, yet she often sounds like a U.S.-raised fan of Billie Holiday and the most soulful roots music of America.  She’s also an actress and has performed music of Ellington and Villa-Lobos on the musical stage. On top of the standards on this 13-tune collection, Laika has penned lyrics to some improvisations by tenor sax players Joe Henderson and Wayne Shorter, a la Jon Hendricks. And they’re great. This is a singer to watch and listen to for sure!
TrackList: Love, Zigaboogaloo, Throw It Away, Just Say Goodby, Where Are the Words, Shallows, Silver Town, Inchworm, The Best Is Yet to Come, Eleanor Rigby, This is for Albert Ayler, I Hear Music, Bird Alone.

DIANE SCHUUR – Schuur Fire – Featuring Caribbean Jazz Project – Concord Picante CCD-2264-2:

The truly incredible singer has had five Grammy nominations and two Grammy awards during her over quarter century in the music business.  Schuur is known for her wide vocal range and powerhouse delivery when appropriate.  The slant of this album is Latin music, with vibist/marimba player Dave Samuels leading the Caribbean Jazz Project ensemble. Also in the group is famed Brazilian guitarist/composer/arranger Oscar Castro-Neves. The whole band is really hot and Diane’s voice is a joyous treat.
TrackList: Lover Come Back to Me, Don’t Let Me Be Lonely Tonight, So In Love, Look Around, I Can’t Stop Loving You, As, More Than You Know, Ordinary World, Poinciana, Close Enough for Love, Confession, Yellow Days.

BARBARA COOK – Tribute – Musical direction and arrangements by Michael Kosarin – DRG 91493:
Barbara Cook doesn’t claim to be a jazz vocalist; she is one of the finest voices of the musical stage and has been for a very long career. I recall hearing her cracking me up with Glitter and Be Gay on the original Broadway cast recording of Leonard Bernstein’s Candide, many years ago.  This CD is a tribute to her longtime accompanist and friend Wally Harper (who died in 2004) and covers mostly materials from musicals, including four songs by Harper. Cook’s is a strong voice with always the most perfect dramatic abilities required by the particular song’s lyrics.
I’ve Got the World on a String, Hurry, It’s Lovely Up Here, Out of This World, Last Night When We Were Young, The World Must Be Bigger Than an Avenue, I Never Knew That Men Cried, Another Mr. Right Left, Nashville Nightingale, Bojangles of Harlem, I’m Like a New Broom, I’ll Buy You a Star, Make the Man Love Me, Sing a Song With Me, Let Me Sing and I’m Happy, Smile.

NANCY KING – Live at Jazz Standard, with Fred Hersch, piano – MaxJazz vocal series MXJ122:

King is one of the current queens of jazz vocalists. Her brilliant interpretations have captivated not only jazz fans but many top performers as well. She has been a sort of cult figure in jazz for 40 years, spending some time working in the San Francisco area, but then dropping out in the early 70s and returning to her home in Oregon to raise her three children.  No need to say much about pianist Fred Hersch; he’s also a king among jazz pianists today. The two performed as a duo and were recorded without Nancy’s knowledge. They had never played together before! – this was part of a series Hersch was doing at the Jazz Standard in NYC, having six different duo partners during one week. So nothing was planned, but boy, did they swing!  An evening of the very best jazz improvisation on both their parts!
TrackList: There’s a Small Hotel, I Fall in Love Too Easily, Little Suede Shoes/Day By Day, Everything Happens to Me, Ain’t Misbehavin’, If You Never Come to Me, There Will Never be Another You, Autumn in New York, Four.

WESLA WHITFIELD – Livin’ On Love – with The Mike Greensill Quartet featuring Gary Foster – High Note HCD 7152:

Wesla is one of the great interpreters of The Great American Songbook songs today. I wouldn’t say her voice is unique but she has such a perfect approach to the lyrics of each song without over-theatricalizing anything, that it’s a pleasure to share her reflections on these mostly-familiar tunes. Her general demeanor with them is something like a cabaret singer, but more accessible and less of a dissection of the songs. Her husband Mike Greensill is the pianist and did all the arrangements, which successfully keep the focus on Wesla’s voice. Very nice.
TrackList: This Can’t Be Love, Love Is Here To Stay, East of the Sun, Pure Imagination, For All Know, Get Out of Town, Once in a While, The Gentleman is a Dope, Alfie, I’m Glad There is You, Do I Hear a Waltz?, I’ve Heard That Song Before, Whistling Away the Dark.

MOSE ALLISON Sings – with Addison Farmer/Taylor La Fargue, bass; Frank Isola/Ronnie Free/Nick Stabulas, drums – Prestige RVG Masters PRCD-30011-2:

More than 50 years since his first album for Prestige was a hit, Mose Allison is still doing his sly, cynically witty down-home blues-type vocals accompanied by often far-out modern jazz piano.  On this original album of 1959 he played his trumpet on one track – Trouble in Mind – plus was heard in a couple strictly instrumental tracks with his piano trio. Though mono and only 46 minutes length, the sonics of the new RVG remastering brings out new details in the sound of Mose and his collaborators. I always enjoyed playing his LPs for friends back then and then amazing them by showing his picture on the front; they invariably thought they were listening to a black performer.
TrackList: The Seventh Son, Eyesight to the Blind, Do Nothin’ Till You Hear From Me, Lost Mind, I’ve Got a Right to Cry, Baby Let Me Hold Your Hand, Parchman Farm (later erroneously listed by Blue Cheer on their LP as “Parchment Farm”), If You Live, Don’t Get Around Much Anymore, One Room Country Shack, I Hadn’t Anyone Till You, Young Man’s Blues, That’s Alright, Blueberry Hill, Trouble in Mind, Creek Bank.

FREDDY COLE  Sing Tony Bennett – Because of You – High Note HCD 7156:

Nat’s bro has a nice voice and smooth delivery.  His albums have always been an enjoyable listen. Nothin’ wrong with Tony Bennett, but I’d prefer hearing the Cole versions herein. Especially with such sidemen here as Houston Person and Kenny Washington.  John Di Martino is the skillful pianist and he also handled all the great arrangements. The notes speak of how active Bennett was in the civil rights movement, which I hadn’t known.  And one of the tunes – All for You – is Django Reinhardt’s Nuages with lyrics written by Tony Bennett!  A wonderful ten-tune outing with a warm and attractive voice.
TrackList: Getting Some Fun Out of Life, Blame It On My Youth, Because of You, All For You, If I Ruled the World, What Are You Afraid Of?, You’re My Thrill, I Got Lost In Her Arms, The Gentle Rain, If We Never Meet Again.

TONY DeSARE – Last First Kiss – Telarc CD-83651:
(Tony DeSare, vocals & piano; Todd Firth, piano & B3 organ; Bucky Pizzarelli, guitar; Brian Czach, drums & percussion; Glenn Drewes, trumpet; Keith O’Quinn, trombone; Bob Malachi, tenor sax; Harry Allen tenor sax)

Our third male singer is also a pianist and in his second CD for Telarc he sticks to mainstream-type romantic ballads, writing the title track himself. His voice is young-sounding and sexy, and the tunes are all perfect for his crooner sort of voice and delivery. He debuted at NYC’s Café Carlyle, and United Press called DeSare “The freshest face on the saloon circuit.”  The romantic standards mix perfectly with the originals, many with a rather bluesy touch.  And his band is one of the best. DeSare said Bucky Pizzarelli’s guitar work gave him a lot of ideas about how to do some of his songs.
TrackList: Kiss, Gee Baby Ain’t I Good to You, You’d Be So Nice to Come Home To, Let’s Just Stay In, Come On Strong, I’ll Never Have Enough of You, Oh Look at Me Now, How Deep Is the Ocean?, Last First Kiss, They Can’t Take That Away from Me, I Feel the Earth Move, There Will Never Be Another You, Love’s Lullaby.

DARYL SHERMAN – Guess Who’s In Town – Arbors Jazz  ARCD 19341:

(Daryl Sherman, piano & vocals; Harry Allen, tenor sax; Vince Giordano, bass sax; Jon Wheatly, guitar; Dave Green, bass; Jay Leonhart, bass)

Daryl hails from Woonsocket, Rhode Island, the same place that produced pianist Dave McKenna. In fact Daryl and Dave shared a previous Arbors Jazz CD session which garnered four stars from Downbeat. Daryl accompanies herself and likes the locked-hands style of Shearing. Another of her heroes is Mildred Bailey, and she even does one of Mildred’s big hits – Tennessee Fish Fry. This is certainly an identifiable, unique voice, with a warmth and sweetness but also a great sense of humor. Good tune choices, and she really seems to take the listener into her confidence. Plus her sidemen aid and abet the proceedings masterfully.
TrackList: Love You Madly, I Concentrate On You, Then I’ll Be Tired of You, Guess Who’s in Town, Carolina in the Morning, Tennessee Fish Fry, Angel Eyes, Lullaby of Birdland, Underneath the Arches, Welcome to Manhattan, Embraceable You, Like a Puzzle, Don’t Worry ‘Bout Me, Someday Sweetheart, Dream Awhile.

AMANDA McBROOM – A Timeless Thing – Sonopress/FineDisc FD001:

Amanda is a singer, songwriter and cabaret performer who came to wide attention with her 1979 recording of The Rose. Bette Midler, Barry Manilow and others have performed her songs. She’s a top audiophile thrush as a result of the Sheffield Lab direct discs Growing Up in Hollywood Town and West of Oz. This is a reissue collection of tracks Amanda recorded previously, with a variety of accompaniments ranging from just piano to small ensembles. The techy end of this production should interest audio buffs; it’s detailed in two pages of the note booklet. FineDisc is an acronym for Faithfully Incarnated, Naturally Enhanced, Digitally Immaculate Sonic Correction. Got that? Obviously, this is not just any remastering project! Frankly, I didn’t notice anything special about the sonics, though they sounded good.
TrackList: Those Eyes, A Timeless Thing, The Way You Look Tonight, My Favorite Year, Wheels, Whoever You Are, Baltimore Oriole, From Where I Stand, Hot in Here, Girl Writing a Letter, Tragedy, Grateful.

SARA LAZARUS – It’s All Right With Me – With the Biréli Legréne Gipsy Project – Dreyfus Jazz FDM 46050 366932, 42:16:

Don’t know anything about this singer except that the session was recorded in Paris.  Her voice is enjoyable and thoroughly professional though not especially distinctive. But the big attraction here is her backing – leading gypsy jazz guitar Birélli Legréne and his quartet plus a sextet of strings.  It’s like a really good female vocalist appearing with Django’s original band, which didn’t happen as far as I recall.  The dozen songs are all in English except for Dans Mon Ile. Great fun!
TrackList: Gypsy in My Soul, Taking a Chance on Love, What a Little Moonlight Can Do, Embraceable You, It’s All Right With Me, Dans Mon Ile, Deed I Do, Down With Love, Jim, The Way You Look Tonight, In the Wee Small Hours of the Morning, Cheek to Cheek.

ELLYNNE PLOTNICK – I Walk Alone – Ellynne Plotnick:
(with Dan Furman, piano/arrangements; Tom Pietrycha, bass; Yuji Nakamura, drums)

Clearly a one-off artist release, I would have been happy to list an email address or web site but none appeared on the album.  Anyone starting off with Bob Dorough’s delightful Small Day Tomorrow is sure to get my attention. Plotnick has an attractive cabaret-style voice and delivery with a lot humor to it. She wrote half of the dozen songs herself or with her pianist, and also contributed to the arrangements. Her Chair Song is exactly that; you don’t find a lot a songs about chairs. She delivers a touching spoken introduction over the music to Alex Wilder’s lovely While We’re Young to close out the CD.
TrackList: Small Day Tomorrow, If I Should Lose You, The Absence of Light, I Walk Along, Chair Song, My Foolish Heart, Don’t Misunderstand Me, Illusions, Uncertainty, Don’t Blame Me, Get Out of Town, While We’re Young.

LAUREN HOOKER – Right Where I Belong – Musical Legends []:

(With Allen Farnham, piano; Rufus Reid, bass; Tim Horner, drums & percussion)

What attracted me to Lauren’s debut CD was her writing and delivery of new lyrics to five jazz instrumental standards – Goodbye Porkpie Hat, Jitterbug Waltz, Monk’s Well You Needn’t, Mal Waldron’s Seagulls of Kristiansund, and Wayne Shorter’s Footprints. They’re a kick, reminding me of Jon Henrick’s efforts in the same direction. She also has several original songs among the 13 tracks. Her voice is excellent, if not that unique, and Allen Farnham is one of the top jazz pianists around, providing first class backing for the her vocals.
TrackList: [Lauren’s titles for the jazz instrumental lyrics differ a bit from the originals] Right Where I Belong, You’d Be So Nice to Come Home To, Goodbye Port Pie, The Eyes of Chaz, The Other Side of the Sun, You Needn’t Call Me, Time and Space, Seagulls, Lovebug Jitters, No Goodbyes, Footprints On My Soul, Ill Wind, Creole Love Call.

KERRY LINDER – Sail Away With Me – Blue Toucan Music []:

(With Paulo André Tavares, guitar; Mauro Refosco, percussion; Hendrik Meurkens, harmonica; Erik Friedlander, cello; Anat Cohen, clarinet; Paulo Levi, reeds; Clark Gayton, trombone; Michael Phillip Mossman, trumpet; David Finck, bass; Helio Schiavo, drums)

Kerry Linder is a native of Curacao and her album in infused with bossa nova and Caribbean rhythms and sounds.  On a couple of the tunes she flows easily from English to Portuguese. The arrangements are by her guitarist, and the presence of a variety of guest artists on various tracks adds much interest to the mix.  For example, harmonica virtuoso Hendrik Meurkens on two of the tunes, and even accordion on one. The tunes are a balance of bossa hits from the 50s and 60s plus jazz standards such as That’s All and God Bless the Child.
TrackList: Sail Away With Me, Adeus Batucada, Deixa, Language and Love, St. Judy’s Comet, Song for my Father, Inquietacao, That’s All, I Don’t Know, God Bless the Child, Manha de Carnaval, As Time Goes By.

PATRIZIA…the Sultry Lady of Jazz – All the Things You Are – Patrizia 937 750 020-2 []:

(with Richard James, piano; Daniel Jackson, tenor sax; Bob Magnusson, bass; Ronnie Stewart, drums)

Another debut CD, this from a San Diego-based vocalist.  The note booklet has sizeable paragraphs on her four sidemen but nothing specific on Patrizia’s background. She tackles these dozen jazz standards with a powerful and rich voice with plenty of blues quality in it. Her highest register reminds me a bit of Rose Murphy.  Her sidemen are everything they should be. The final tune, Send in the Clowns (it’s one I can’t stand), is misidentified as a duet with her pianist. Makes it sound like they sing together. They don’t, thankfully
TrackList: All the Things You Are, I Could Write a Book, Why Can’t I, I Ain’t Got Nothin’ But the Blues, It Shouldn’t Happen to a Dream, An Occasional Man, Willow Weep for Me, Don’t Be on the Outside, Lover Man, The Shadow of Your Smile, Blue Skies, Send in the Clowns.

DIAHANN CARROLL and the Andre Previn Trio – Porgy and Bess – DRG Theater Broadway Collectors’ Series 8501:

This disc has been sitting here for a long time, but perhaps it doesn’t matter since it is a reissue of a 1959 recording. I seem to have a penchant for collecting various interpretations of Gershwin’s great American opera Porgy and Bess. The one with Mel Tormé and Frances Faye is one of my favorites (although I always feel they should have reversed roles), and the one with Ray Charles is pretty good too. Anyway, singer-actress Diahann Carroll – who also starred in the Richard Rodgers musical No Strings – was one of the lead roles in the 1959 Porgy and Bess movie.  In this mono LP reissue from that year, she sings ten of the songs from the opera, with the very capable arrangements and support of Andre Previn’s Trio. (Strangely, I still prefer Previn’s jazz albums of this early period to his recent ones for Telarc.)
TrackList: Summertime, My Man’s Gone Now, I Got Plenty of Nuttin’, Porgy I Is Your Woman, Oh I Can’t Sit Down, It Ain’t Necessarily So, What You Want Wid Bess, I Love You Porty, There’s Somebody Knockin’, There’s a Boat That’s Leavin’ Soon for New York.

– all reviews by John Henry 

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