Category Archives: Reviews

Reviews of albums or artists.

Amy Steinberg – Broken Open

Amy Steinberg - Broken OpenAmy Steinberg – Broken Open
Released – February 2015

Performers are quick to tell you if they’re a “triple threat” – can sing, dance and act. A triple threat of a different bent, Amy Steinberg is a singer/songwriter, performer, choir director, and artist who works with acrylics.

A vocal artist who can channel Joni Mitchell one moment, Natalie Merchant the next, and Melissa Etheridge after that, although she names Bette Midler, Ani DiFranco, Christy Snow and George Carlin as influences. Blending spirituality and humor, or as she puts it, “…marrying the sacred and profane – fusing the dreamlike nature of spirit with the rooted realness of sexuality and humor.”

If every song tells a story, these are handcrafted and intense stories told by a gifted storyteller, who has been to dark places and back, lived to tell that story and find the positive things from the experience. Or as she puts it, “There is always a spark that the dark can’t deny.”

Favorites here include the opener, “Burning Into The High,” along with “Sawyer’s Song,” and “Letting Go,” and I’ll be adding these three at 62ndStreet.com.

That said, the stories are so personal, that’s it’s more than likely you’ll find your own favorites among this set, which is highly recommended.

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Uptown Vocal Jazz Quartet – Vocal Madness

Uptown Vocal Jazz QuartetUptown Vocal Jazz Quartet –
Vocal Madness
Released – November 7, 2014

Dedicated to the late Tim Hauser, who founded the Manhattan Transfer – this east-coast based foursome joins with saxophonist Richie Cole (Lionel Hampton, Doc Severinsen, Eddie Jefferson) for a dozen cool tracks.

Ginny Carr leads the group. Her alto is joined by Andre Enceneat on Bass, soprano Holly Shockley, and tenor Robert McBride.

I’ve added Mr. Cole’s original “Bossa Nova Eyes,” along with “I Love Lucy” (yes, that Lucy), and Ms. Carr’s tribute to Eddie Jefferson, “He Was The Cat” to the playlist at 62ndStreet.com. But buy the album, and spring for the whole dozen. And forget the old standards. These tight harmonies and hand-crafted lyrics will have you believing they’ve been around for forever.

Highly recommended.

Lissy Walker – Wonderland

Lissy Walker - WonderlandLissy Walker – Wonderland
Released – September 23, 2014

As intimate as a whisper in your ear, Lissy Walker’s “Wonderland” is a sweetly swinging charmer, delivering on the early 20th century mood the publicist’s pen promises.

Admittedly a muddler of genres, Ms. Walker manages to sound country one moment, modern alt-something the next. But hard to put into a box also means unique, right down to the choice of tunes on this disc – from 1918’s melancholy “I’m Forever Blowing Bubbles,” to 1970s folk-rock “I Wish I Was A Fool For You,” written by Richard Thompson, a restrained arrangement that fits the lyric much better than the over-produced version Sandy Denny delivered in 1977.

Photo by Anne Hamersky

Alternately, there’s nothing at all restrained about Ms. Walker’s cover of Billie Holiday’s “Lover Man (Oh, Where Can You Be?),” which reveals Ms. Walker’s theatrical background through a display of longing that could leave you wanting a cigarette when it’s over.

That’s one of my favorites from this set – along with “Isn’t It Romantic?” the Rodgers and Hart classic, once called “…the perfect song,” which opens with just the backing of Scott Nygaard on guitar, and then builds with strings to a bigger finish. Backing musicians are all first rate – in addition to Mr. Nygaard, Jon Evans on bass, Steven Bernstein on trumpet and John R. Burr on piano.

They’re joined by guest artists Carla Kihlstedt on violin and Ben Goldberg on clarinet. At times, as good as they all are, the recording mix can nearly overpower Ms. Walker’s delicate voice. I would have turned ‘em down a little.

But that’s a small quibble with this hand-crafted work of art, a fine addition to any collection of jazz vocalists, and is very highly recommended.

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