Reports this evening say Ms. Houston died of (as yet) unknown causes, at 48.
It’s always interesting to hear standards – or semi-standards – in the oddest places. I’m traveling in Burma (Myanmar) today.
At a farily high-level meeting, a mobile phone went off. Roberta Flack’s “Where Is The Love?” was the ringtone.
Lisa Casalino – Introducing Lisa Casalino
Released – August, 2011
The old joke is “…don’t quit the day job,” yet that’s what Lisa Casalino did, a couple of times – telling a hometown TV station that her career as a vocalist took off as a Central Florida real estate career wound down.
Not hard to see why Ms. Casalino stays busy – a winsome smile and plenty of energy gets this disc off and running with the Gershwins’ “S’ Wonderful.” Nine standards are included, but the real gems are three original tunes penned by Ms. Casalino and guitarist Nate Najar, who also arranges and produces.
“The Good Stuff” is one of those originals, which stands up nicely with these classics, and for my money, should have kicked off the disc. The other two original tunes are “Break A Leg,” and “This And That.” Both are clever, and clearly Ms. Casalino and Mr. Najar know how to write a hook – sometimes a lost art among songwriters.
I’m also fond of a pair of ballads – A very moody version of Charlie Chaplin’s “Smile,” and a languid version of Johnny Mercer’s “On The Atchison, Topeka And The Santa Fe” is also a nice change of pace.
This is a first release after 15 years of Florida club dates for Ms. Casalino; a “real record,” she says – recorded at the famed NOLA studios in New York. Ms. Casalino’s voice is so pure, and so spot-on in tune, I feel guilty for saying I’d like to hear a touch less vibrato. But that’s me.
Good bunch of guys backing on this - Mr. Najar is joined in the studio by Harry Allen on tenor saxophone, Jon-Erik Kellso on trumpet, pianist Rossano Sportiello, Kelly Friesen on bass, and percussionist Chuck Redd.
This is top-shelf stuff, worthy of a place in your collection, not just for the new look at some standard material – but also for the three originals. Nice to see a story about a leap of faith that pays off.
This disc is highly recommended.
Regulars to this space know how much I love watching Robin McKelle perform. Her new album, “Soul Flower,” was released last week in France, where she’s been a much bigger name than at home in the US.
Until I can score that disc, here’s a clip from last summer’s “Jazz in Marciac” festival, an annual jazzfest held in southwest France. You’ll want to either turn down the volume, or (my preference), turn it up real loud.
Etta James – gone at 73 today.
“And here we are, in heaven…”
So long, Etta. Not sure there will be another like you.
Happy new year!
I was home…well, hometown – Detroit area – for the holidays. A kiss from Mom and the relatives, a little hockey (watched, not played), and a trip to my favorite record shop on the planet led to a dozen discs to fill out the collection.
But let’s talk about some new music, first.
Christine Rosholt – Pazz (NB Productions)
Released – December 1, 2011
Christine Rosholt, whose website sports a “Jazz Standards” banner, goes off-road in this effort, which she says was several years in the making with British pop-rock songwriter Kevin Hall.
All of the tunes are original. Ms. Rosholt says, “With jazz standards, I can go to iTunes and listen to a hundred versions of ‘Cheek to Cheek’ if I want inspiration.” She says the work of putting her mark on original material leaves her feeling “exposed.”
No worries, there.
Personality is Ms. Rosholt’s strong suit, and by the time we’re a couple of tracks in, she’s not only checked that box with the ethereal “Midnight Moon,” she’s also showing off her theatre background, hitting the balcony with a feisty “No Pleasing You,” and into an earthy ballad with “Better Off Alone.”
A large group joins on several of the tracks. The Hornheads, part of Prince’s backing band in the early 90s, are on for four tracks; Lucia Newell adds plenty to my favorite cut, “Midnight Moon,” and Sophia Shorai, Katie Gearty, and Rachel Holder round out backing vocals on three others. Some of Ms. Rosholt’s regular pals – Graydon Peterson on Bass, and percussionist Mac Santiago join; Mr. Hall provides piano support backing vocals and a snappy duet with “So Not Over You.”
Ms. Rosholt has been one of Minneapolis-St. Paul’s hardest working singers for a while, but that’s a pretty saturated market, as the area is blessed with a number of quality performers. This work takes her out of that crowded box, and puts her in a place where there are fewer peers and an ability to stretch out a little.
Doing something other than witty banter and smart interpretations of the usual suspects from the songbook could be a high risk move.
But high reward, too. There’s a jackpot, here. This disc is very highly recommended.
One of the discs I found in the “used” bins over the holiday was a reissue of 1959′s “The Charming Miss Edie Adams.” Miss Adams, who joined the heavenly choir in 2008 at 81, was best known as the wife of television funny guy Ernie Kovacs.
But she was also an award-winning Broadway performer, a talented impressionist and comedienne, as well as TV pitchwoman (for Muriel Cigars); all professions she needed in order to pay off Mr. Kovacs’ sizable debts.
I’ll consider the disc quite a find at $4.98, even in the era of instant Amazon/eBay gratification. Here’s a clip of Miss Adams on “The Lucy-Desi Comedy Hour,” from 1960. It was the final episode of the show – and as the “YouTube” poster points out – the final show with Lucy and Desi together, as they were already in the middle of their divorce.
And do you think Ethel is really playing the piano?