Laurie Antonioli – Songs Of Shadow, Songs Of Light

Laurie Antonioli - Songs Of Shadow, Songs Of LightLaurie Antonioli – Songs Of Shadow,
Songs Of Light (Origin)
Released – August 19, 2014

Subtitled “The Music of Joni Mitchell,” right out of the box, you know it’s going to be a little bit of a tightrope act. It’s not like “The Music of Cole Porter,” or “Johnny Mercer;” songs that have been done a bazillion times, and no one (in my demographic, anyway) can remember exactly who did the original.

On these, there’s no doubt. Joni Mitchell did the original. And mostly (in my demographic, anyway), we remember how the originals sounded, and they sounded pretty damn good.

So, back to that out of the box experience: that little voice inside is saying, “Go ahead, Laurie Antonioli. Impress me with how you’ve messed with one of the greats.” It’s hard not to make the comparision. Ms. Mitchell’s lyrics were so written by her and for her; and that unique way she was able to trip through lyrics to make verses scan.

Truth is, Ms. Antonioli messes with Joni Mitchell in the very best way, mostly by sticking to the tunes that you’ve heard before, but weren’t played to death on the radio, at least not on top 40 radio. These are the ones that aren’t so burned in to the memory bank. With one big exception, only two tracks even “Bubbled Under” on Billboard’s “Hot 100″ for Ms. Mitchell: “California,” and “River,” both from 1971′s album, “Blue.”

And that one big exception is “Both Sides Now,” which was on 1969′s album, “Clouds.”  As familiar as it is – it didn’t chart for Ms. Mitchell, who wrote it – but it was a top-ten for Judy Collins, and covered countless times.

Laurie Antonioli“Each day, at the end of a session,” Ms. Antonioli says, pianist Matt Clark “…and I did one or two takes to see if we could get something…we wanted to find a different approach to it.”

What came out of that experimentation is a gem – a moving rendition that’s more powerful than the original – wistful, full of reminisces and maybe a little regret.

You can’t sing it that way if you’re a kid. “It’s where I started,” Ms. Antonioli says. “It’s both a personal and generational thing.”

It wouldn’t be polite to speculate on Ms. Antonioli’s generation.

But this generation approves. Highly recommended.

62nd LogoTracks added at 62ndStreet.com radio – “Both Sides Now,” and the opener, “People’s Parties.”

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While we’re on the subject of generations, I want to go back and revisit some earlier comments about Rachael Price and “Lake Street Dive.” They’ve been all over TV in recent months. I caught them on “Letterman,” but then went looking, and found them on “Ellen.”

I raved about them here, and then a couple of weeks ago, a work colleague caught them at Washington’s 930 Club. She says they were great, and couldn’t get over how many young fellas were standing around the stage, calling out Ms. Price’s name.

Wasn’t it Janis Joplin who complained about the dearth of male groupies?

I digress. The point is – that the following week, my pal Vic Doucette (We won’t speculate about his age, either – except to say he’s not a young fella) was raving about Ms. Price as she and the band visited the Detroit area.

Vic and Rachael PriceAnd Vic brought back the picture, taken by his pal, Maggie McCabe.

Any group that can motivate the young fellas to stand around the stage, calling out the lead
singer’s name, and also have fans from Mr. Doucette’s generation (one with gray hair) is going places.

‘Nuff said.

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Sherie Julianne – 10 Degrees South

Sherie Julianne - 10 Degrees SouthSherie Julianne – 10 Degrees South
(Azul do Mar)
Released – 29 July 2014

San Francisco vocalist Sherie Julianne matches with veteran pianist and arranger Marcos Silva for this handcrafted dozen Brazilian-flavored tunes.

“I wanted to find music that…speaks to my American roots,” she says, “while being immersed in Brazilian rhythms.”

The result sounds remarkably like that body of work that permeated American radio in the 1960s, that took the sometimes languid sounds of Brazil, and added a touch of drive.  The kind of music that made Sergio Mendes a very well-known name.

Ms. Julianne is possessed with a delivery true to those times – bright, yet sensual.  She handles the pace brilliantly – losing neither the intricacies of the language nor the rhythm in the uptempo set.

Sherie JulianneThis is a stunning debut effort.

Mr. Silva arranges and performs on keyboards; joined by Scott Thompson on bass, Jeff Buenz on guitar, sax and flute by Mary Fettig, and Phil Thompson on drums.

Bonus points for a disc package that is as stylish as the music.  So good they deservedly get liner credit – the FUEL Agency, of Oakland, California.

Very highly recommended.

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62nd Logo Two tracks from this disc added at 62ndStreet.com this week – in keeping with the 60s theme (we’ll call it the “Americanization of Bossa Nova”), I’m adding two of the English-language tunes.  Listen for the Michel Legrand classic “Watch What Happens,” along with that so famous Mendes/Bergmans collaboration – “The Look Of Love.”

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Matt Garrison – Patchwork

Matt Garrison - PatchworkMatt Garrison – Patchwork
(Stop Time Records)

Released – April, 2014

I keep hearing that jazz as a genre is dying. And yet – as the old radio liner said, the hits just keep on coming.

Saxophonist Matt Garrison has assembled something just short of a big band for his third recording, which features Melissa Morgan as the featured vocalist.

Good call.

Melissa MorganIt’s a solid set – I’ll admit being partial to the covers of Don McLean’s “Vincent,” and the Young Rascals’ “How Can I Be Sure,” only because of familiarity with them as vocals. Ms. Morgan’s silky, smoky, bluesy take pushes these tracks over the top for me.

Multiple listens teased out my other favorite, the original instrumental “First Flight,” which Mr. Garrison says kept him busy on his own first flight – “It pains me to say it, but my first ever plane ride came in 2012 when I flew to California to record on Melissa Morgan’s new album. On the flight, I had music paper with me, a pencil, an iPad, and a piano app, and I wrote this mid air on the way out to the west coast.”

A good crew, topped (for me, anyway) by the sassy Ms. Morgan – clearly at ease – doing what she does best. Yes, you’ll find traces of Dinah, or Nancy. But it’s not them.

It’s Ms. Morgan. These guys are all very, very good, but she’s what makes this very good disc – very great.

62nd LogoAdded to the playlist at 62ndStreet – “How Can I Be Sure,” along with “Vincent,” both featuring Ms. Morgan; and “First Flight,” the original instrumental.

Thsi disc is very highly recommended.

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Isabel Stover – Her Own Sweet World

Isabel Stover - Her Own Sweet World Isabel Stover – Her Own Sweet World
Released – June 17, 2014

So many debut albums offer an eclectic mix of styles – as if the artist is trying to find her sweet spot, that place to develop whatever the thing will be that sets her apart. This album, from Isabel Stover, is no different.

Ranging from breezy, swingy and light – Kern/Hammerstein’s “The Song Is You” – to Taj Mahal’s bluesy “Lovin’ In My Baby’s Eyes,” to the ballad, “Never Let Me Go,” Ms. Stover covers all the bases. I particularly like “Never Let Me Go,” written by Ray Evans and Jay Livingston in the mid-50s. Ms. Stover aces this much-covered classic. Playing her velvety alto voice like the fine instrument it is – she’s also in top form on Michael Jackson’s “Human Nature.”

Isabel StoverThere’s a style dying to get out – I can hear it on those two tracks. Much to like about this disc, and Ms. Stover clearly has learned a lot from those she cites as influences and teachers. But now that this debut is out of the way, it may be time to stop absorbing from others for a little while, and develop a style that will have others learning from her.

Then – on that second or third album, we’ll be able to come back to this one, and say, “Wow. There it was!”

Jonathan Alford on piano, Fred Randolph on bass, drummer Curt Moore, and Dave Bell on Guitar all frame Ms. Stover perfectly. Artist and teacher Stephanie Bruce picks up co-production and arrangement credits; Dave Tidball on sax has some very nice riffs. Arrangements here are superb.

62nd LogoListening to this disc was a joy. “Human Nature,” and “Never Let Me Go” will be in current rotation at 62ndStreet.com. This disc is highly recommended.

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“Never Let Me Go” was written for a forgettable 1956 crime drama, “The Scarlet Hour,” a B-movie starring Carol Ohmart and Tom Tyron.  Nat “King” Cole performed it in the movie, but although it’s been covered countless times – it only reached #79 on the Billboard chart for Mr. Cole.

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