Lord knows – after picking up four years of a mostly musical education for our son, I’m entitled to a little insight now and then. So here’s the young musician’s advice on covers, or recording songs that have been hits in the past:
Go through it the first time in a pretty standard way; make it your own the second time through. That proves you know how to do it right, and the listener appreciates better the level of personalization you’ve brought to it.
That makes a lot of sense to me.
Naz – Time After Released – July, 2014
This is a first jazz album for Nazia Chaudhry, who performs professionaly as Naz, but you’d never know it. She has the poise and confidence of someone who’s been doing this for a long time.
In the mood for a intimate band, that clearly has respect for each other, and an understanding that the girl singer is the star?
These are your guys.
Ms. Chaudhry is surrounded with a group of musicians who know exactly how to make the singer look good.
Not that it takes a lot of work – she’s blessed with a sparkling voice, power to spare, and the experience to know how to use it.
Most important – the guys behind her know when *not* to play.
The ten tracks range from old classics (1954’s “Fly Me To The Moon“) to more modern material – Jobim’s “Só Danço Samba” and Cyndi Lauper’s “Time After Time.”
Drummer Sean P. Jones co-produces with Ms. Chaudhry. Classic arrangements with just enough of a twise to make them new.
Lauren Desberg – Twenty-First
Century Problems Released – April 28, 2015
An ambitious debut from this 23-year-old Berklee student. It’s an admitted mashup of several styles – jazz, pop, R-and-B. She writes that today’s jazz leaves her cold, and she’s interested in updating the genre for today’s tastes – a sort of jazz for the post-modern era.
“I thought it was all inferior,” she writes. “But…I started hanging out with ‘pop kids.’ It was a different attitude and vibe and I really liked it.”
There’s no question but that Ms. Desberg is a talented young woman. My problem is much of her talent gets a bigfoot from the arrangements (by pianist Samora Pinderhughes) and the mix, presumably overseen by producer @DrewoftheDrew. It’s a wisp of a voice with a quiet power, but not enough to overcome a heavy hand on the knobs.
The backing band is tight – Walter Smith III on sax, Taylor Eigsti on piano, Chris Smith on bass and Corey Fonville on drums. Mr. Smith’s solos on “He Loves And She Loves” and “How Deep Is Your Love” are worthy of a solo album of his own.
And that’s what it sounds like – a band session into which Ms. Desberg wandered. The quieter pieces are the best – a remake of The Whispers’ “Rock Steady” is one of the tracks being touted as a single. I also liked “Down With Love” and “How Deep Is Your Love.” I like all of them – but none are particularly new sounding – they simply put Ms. Desberg’s gifted voice into a better frame.
Go looking for her early EP “Sideways,” and you’ll find a better mix in slightly more standard arrangements. Don’t get me wrong – there’s plenty to like here, and Ms. Desberg’s voice tops that list. You just have to look for it a little. This set is recommended.
Callaghan – A History Of Now (Green Town Music) Released – April 7, 2015 (US) Released – April 13, 2015 (UK)
Take a little bit of US country music – add just a little of that British anthemic pop, and mix in just a little of that mainstream Adult Contemporary “Light Rock, Less Talk” sound.
…and you’d have something approaching Georgina Callaghan.
British by birth, now living in Nashville by way of Atlanta, Ms. Callaghan (who performs under her last name alone) is a hard-workin’, “on the road again” musician – making a little progress now in making herself a household name.
Playing everything from living rooms to headlining in concert halls along the way. She writes, “Being an independent artist is challenging wherever you are and you definitely need a good sense of determination to keep motivating yourself and working at it.”
And, if one is to believe the songs on “A History of Now,” mostly having fun doing it. If writing feel good music is a sin, this young woman is surely headed for…well, you know; but she’ll soon have old Satan himself tapping his foot and smiling. On the other hand, there’s no better road to musical heaven than a good hook – that phrase upon which everything else hangs – and the one that stays in your head.
Now – after four years in the colonies, she’s ready to return to the UK, with this album dropping and kicking off a brief tour this month before returning to the US for house shows that extend through June. “I’d always had it in my mind that I would come back to the UK. I wanted to get a good foundation built in the US so I had time to focus properly on touring in the UK again, and I’m so excited to finally be sharing my music with people back home.”
The two bookends to these dozen tracks are my favorites – “Crazy Beautiful Life,” and “We Don’t Have To Change The World.” But I’d also add the melancholy “When You Loved Me,” and the nearly-spiritual “Who Would I Be,” just for a change of pace.
When this young woman does become that household name, they’ll say it happened “overnight.”
I’ve been scribbling here for more than ten years, and much to the irritation of the artists and publicists who are kind enough to ask me to listen and write about their work and the work of those they promote – I take a little sabbatical every now and then.
This allows me to attend to a) work – there is a day job, b) that list of home repairs, or c) some outside interest. I’ll admit that sometimes during these down times, I ask myself if I’m even in the mood to continue. This time, it’s been all three – with the outside interest getting the little Internet radio up and running.
During these times, I sometimes get nagging little notes – “Did you receive the disc?” or “What did you think? Will you review it soon?”
Then something clicks, and I hear a song, or an entire album about which I must tell people.
And it all starts flowing again.
Sarah Moule – Songs From
The Floating World (Red Ram) Released – September, 2014
Fran Landesman was a lyricist, and what one might call a free spirit. In her 2011 obituary (She died at 83), the New York Times said she “made her life into an art form — not least because of the exuberantly public extramarital sex life she delighted in sharing with London tabloids.”
For years, BBC Radio has featured a program called “Desert Island Discs,” inviting guests to pick their favorite records, and the one luxury item with which they’d want to be stranded. In a 1996 episode, Ms. Landesman caused a bit of a stir when she said her luxury would be cannabis seeds.
The Times obit goes on to say, “…her lasting footprint was the mordant, biting, yet strangely tender lyrics she used to chronicle the world’s lovers, lunatics and losers.” Probably the two most-recorded from her body of work are “Spring Can Really Hang You Up The Most,” and “The Ballad Of The Sad Young Men.”
Lyrics by Ms. Landesman. Music by Simon Wallace. Unforgettable interpretation by Sarah Moule.
My introduction to Ms. Moule came in an email: “I am married to Simon Wallace and have been recording his and Fran’s songs since 2002….I wonder whether you would be interested in a CD of mainly Fran Landesman and Simon Wallace songs.”
The disc opens with echoes of St. Augustine in “Lord, I Want To Be Good,” one of six Landesman-Wallace tracks getting their recorded debut here, and this track hooked me for the rest, a very pleasant (if somewhat melancholy) trip through titles like “Don’t Fall In Love With Me,” along with “Did I Break Your Heart,” and “Scars,” which is more tender than the title would suggest:
Don’t be ashamed | Everybody’s got Scars, From our various wars | On the way to the stars
Don’t try to hide | Everybody’s got scars, From crash landing on Mars | With these egos of ours
And yet, if I had to choose a single track, it would be Cole Porter’s “Under My Skin,” delivered with such longing that it took me a little while to exit my own reverie, remembering my own tales of little romantic infatuations. These songs aren’t for kids. Ms. Moule isn’t just technically perfect, she proves that one needs more than a few life experiences to instinctly deliver these lyrics the way they were written. She’s not only revealing her own soul – she seemed to be looking into mine.
It’s good that I don’t have to pick just one. Neither should you. Highest recommendation for this handcrafted set – this work of art.
In the liner notes, Ms. Moule writes that she took voice lessons from Claire Martin, considered by many “The First Lady of British Jazz.” Ms. Martin has won seven British Jazz Awards and was awarded an O.B.E. in 2011.
Last fall, Ms. Martin collaborated with the Montpellier Cello Quartet to create a deliciously lush recording, titled “Time and Place.” One of my favorites from that disc is “The Man Who Sold The World.” Unfortunately, there’s no video with the video – but the recording is enjoyable on its own!