An impressive and eclectic collection of choices from Kim Nalley, who manages to make each one bend to her will – whether it’s “Movin’ On Up” (Yes – *that* one, from the television show), or the traditional “Amazing Grace.” Ms. Nalley’s command of these songs – her range, the emotion, is breathtaking – amplified by a sparse but powerful backing band. Tammy Hall is on piano and organ, showing off (in the very best way) her background in Texas churches.
But if every song tells a story, this is a story of the African American experience told through original compositions like “Ferguson Blues,” and “Big Hooded Black Man,” and the mainstream – Gershwin’s “Summertime,” and Bob Dylan’s “I Shall Be Released.”
Catina DeLuna – Brazilian Project Released – September 4, 2015
Catina DeLuna’s group is named “Lado B,” with the translation from Portuguese as “Side B.” Anyone who’s listened to the flipside of a record and found a treasure there will get the sly name, and an album that focuses on some of the side streets of the Brazilian catalog. Ms DeLuna’s clear supple voice reminds me of the Lani Hall of the “Brazil ’66” days, effortlessly weaving melodies with words I wish I understood.
My ignorance does not take away from my appreciation of the album, nor the fine work of Otmaro Ruiz, as both a pianist and arranger, who manages to make “Garota de Ipanema” sound brand new, and the track “Estrella Azul” is also a favorite, floating above and alongside Larry Koonse on guitar.
Make no mistake, this is a team effort – Ms. DeLuna’s instrument is that intimate voice she commands so well. But everyone shines on this set – Mr. Koonse on guitar, Edwin Livingston on bass and Aaron Serfaty on drums.
Lorraine Feather – Flirting
With Disaster (Jazzed Media) Released – August 7, 2015
Never cover material, always originals from singer/lyricist Lorraine Feather, who adds Dave Grusin to her stable of collaborators on this eleventh album. It’s a set that (for me) needed multiple listens to not only get familiar with unfamiliar territory, but to begin to appreciate the intracacies of Ms. Feather’s handcrafted work.
That’s not new – I’ve been known to take a pass on revewing her work simply because it’s unfamiliar.
And that’s a shame, because I’ve come to appreciate her individual works months – sometimes longer – after they fall into my hands.
Not so this time.
Favorites here include the collaboration with Grusin – adding lyrics to his “Bossa Baroque,” re-titled now, “Wait For It.” I’m also smitten with the title tune, “Flirting With Disaster,” an instrumentally-complex showcase for the band that provides the musical frame for the emotion – love is always on the edge of trouble. Another favorite is the sly and funny “I’d Be Down With That.”
I’m sure others will catch my ear the more I listen.
The Lies Of
Handsome Men From the album,
“Spark” (Hipnotic) Released September 30, 2014
Francesca Blumenthal wrote “The Lies Of Handsome Men” in the mid-80s, and it’s been covered by everyone from Blossom Dearie to Margaret Whiting to Dame Cleo Lane. Sara Gazarek does a sweet and wistful treatment on her “Blossom and Bee” set from 2012.
But each time the version performed by Marianne Solivan comes around at 62ndStreet.com, I turn the volume up a little. Sparse, bitter – perhaps, but in a more introspective way than outwardly directed.
I’ll admit that I have not listened to the whole album…I gave a quick listen to the tracks, and settled on both this one, and “What Are You Doing New Year’s Eve” as the two that I’d put into rotation at the little radio experiment.
Both are outstanding, but I like “Lies” better. Ms. Solivan is best when the lyrics give her a chance to slow down and fill the space.
And she does that nicely here.
“Lies Of Handsome Men” is a track that is very highly recommended.
Lisa Bassenge – Canyon Songs (Edel/MPS) Released – September 25, 2015
About ten years ago, I was assigned to a two-week project in Berlin, and got a chance to do some diving into CD bins during the downtime. That’s where I discovered Lisa Bassenge. With nothing but a hunch based on the slick cover art (it *does* count), I bought the entire catalog up to that time.
It’s not for everyone. I clearly don’t have all of the sensibilities for German jazz, but when the Ms. Bassenge’s tunes hit me the right way, I’ll play them until the grooves wear out. (As if there were still grooves.)
And so that’s the way it is with “Canyon Songs.” It’s an eclectic mix of sixties classics: The Doors’ “Riders On The Storm” and Buffalo Springfield’s “For What It’s Worth,” Joni Mitchell’s “The Same Situation,” and the Beach Boys’ “I Just Wasn’t Made for these Times.”
The sound is a little jazz, a little blues, and just a little country, as on Rickie Lee Jones’ “Last Chance Texaco.” It’s a winner, and so is a laid back and swingy version of Tom Waits’ “Blue Skies.”
Recorded in Los Angeles, produced by Larry Klein, who’s worked with Melody Gardot and Madeleine Peyroux, Ms. Bassenge’s new record company is clearly putting some money into the production, hoping for a breakout beyond Germany. German trumpeter Till Bonner joins on three of the tunes.
You’ll want to check to make sure it all resonates with you, but the whole album is priced right digitally, and if you’re like me, some of these tracks only get better with repeat listening.
I’ve been a fan for years. It’s about time Ms. Bassenge’s work is properly recognized in the US.
Stevie 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.
Tormé 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.