Stevie Holland – Life Goes On

Stevie Holland - Life Goes OnStevie Holland – Life Goes On
(150 Music)
Released – June 30, 2015

Many singers (or those who represent them), make comparisons in their publicity to giants in the business.

“Like Ella Fitzgerald,” one might say, “(NAME) is a vocalist who…”

Or, “In a style reminiscent of Peggy Lee, (NAME) has a unique sense of…”

You get the idea.

So when I get a comparison in my head that’s sort of off that well worn track, I get a little nervous. Not that I’m necessarily trying to win anyone’s approval; rather, the fear is that I’ll be so out of left field that it will demean the whole piece.

Stevie Holland reminds me of Mel Tormé.

Stevie HollandTormé had a style that sounded like anyone could do what he did. Anyone with lots of practice, spot-on ability to hit the notes, an impeccable, nobody-can-touch-me sense of swing, and the confidence that says yeah…anyone can do this.

Go ahead and try.

So, so effortless, she makes it sound.  The great ones do.  Never so much as in this set, that opens with that Arlen/Mercer classic, “Skylark,” and glides through pieces both old classic (“Tea For Two), new classic (James Taylor’s “Another Gray Morning), and fresh – Ms. Holland’s own “Tomorrow’s Looking Brighter Today,” with husband and composer Gary William Friedman.

Grammy award winner Todd Barkan (This year’s “Best Latin Jazz Album”) produces. The backing band includes Randy Ingram, piano; Peter Brendler, bass; and Jeff Davis on drums. Trumpeter Nicholas Payton guests on three tracks, and a string quartet appears on two.

It may sound easy, but don’t try this at home, kids.

This set is very highly recommended.


Tracks in bold will be added to the playlist at

A few weeks ago, I wrote about Callaghan, the US-based, British-born country/pop/adult contemporary artist.  “When You Loved Me” was one of the tracks I liked a lot.


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Lauren White – Experiment

Lauren White - ExperimentLauren White – Experiment
(Cherry Pie)

Released – April 4, 2015

“Inspired by the recordings of Irene Kral,” about whom Lorraine Dahl wrote in her book, Stormy Weather: “…she was a master of quiet understatement and good taste.”

And this is largely a quiet recording, with songs just a skosh away from the usual set of standards, like “Show Me,” the Lerner-Lowe tune from “My Fair Lady,” or “Lucky To Be Me,” a mid-40s tune with music by Leonard Bernstein (!), and lyrics from Betty Comden and Adolph Green.

Or entirely different takes on the very familiar – a very introspective “Gentle Rain,” performed as quiet and bluesy ballad before breaking into the beat we may all be more used to.

Lauren WhiteWhether the playful material from Dave Frishberg (“Wheelers And Dealers”), or the more melancholy material of Fran Landesman (“It Isn’t So Good”), Ms. White delivers with a serene intensity – finding the emotional center of the material.

Backed by the Quinn Johnson Trio, which includes Mr. Johnson on piano, bassist Trey Henry and Ray Brinker on Drums, this set rides that thin line between cabaret and jazz nicely, and is highly recommended.


Tracks in bold added to the playlist at

Here’s one of my latest “Oh, my” moments. Melody Gardot has a new set coming out in June – “Currency Of Man.” A few of the tracks are available now at the usual places. Here’s one of them – “Same To You.”

Oh, my.

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Naz – Time After

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 AfterNaz – 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.

And gal.

Ms. Chaudhry is surrounded with a group of musicians who know exactly how to make the singer look good.

Nazia ChaudhryNot 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.

And a lively and engaging…very gifted vocalist.

This set is very highly recommended.


Titles in bold have been added to the playlist at Radio.

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Lauren Desberg – Twenty First Century Problems

Lauren Desberg - Twenty First Century ProblemsLauren 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.

Lauren DesbergThe 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.


Tracks in bold have been added to the playlist at Radio.

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