Two quick business days in New York, and halfway there, I discover that I forgot the power brick for the computer. Run three blocks from the hotel up to Columbus Circle to find the Microsoft store (not a store, but rather a kiosk), and on the way, read that Facebook pal Champian Fulton says she’s playing just two more blocks up the street.
The venue was new – at the Hudson Hotel – “Henry a Liquor Bar.” Nice, but noisy. Still, Champian’s dad, Stephen, was on flugelhorn – and her mom took a picture of the two of us. Always good to see old friends in the big city, especially friends as talented as Champian and her dad.
Nancy Harms – Dreams In
Apartments Released – July, 2013
So do you quit the day job, and take the leap? I’ve always admired people who bet the farm, even if they lose. This is not one of those stories. Three years in New York now for Nancy Harms, in those places of which you’ve heard, and it’s hard to say if the city is rubbing off on her, or vice-versa.
This is her second album – the first since she began inhabiting New York full time. The release party for this one – “Dreams In Apartments” – was last week at Birdland.
After reviewing their work, I’ve added two new artists to the current heavy rotation playlist on my iPod: Kristine Mills and Tanja Maritsa. But that got me thinking about other artists you may never have heard – whose material is still on my personal “A” list, and who deserve to be on yours. These are artists who are often big deals in their hometowns, but for whatever reason, you won’t find their discs in the racks at Target, or the local Borders. In most cases, you’ll find ’em at iTunes, CD Baby and Amazon. In a couple of cases, you’ll find freebies online at their website.
Besame Mucho – Laura Coyle Ms. Coyle (left) is another of those who understands the package, top to bottom. She’s an artist and illustrator, whose work you’ve probably seen a hundred times – ironically, in the racks at Target, but in the racks with with greeting cards and birthday notions.
But she’s also a heckuva singer.
This is one of my favorite tracks from her self-titled 2008 debut recording. It not only includes her fine singing, but also a nice trumpet solo by Melvin Jones in the middle. She plays several dates a month in her native Atlanta. I never get tired of this track, or the disc.
Hold Tight – Sister Swing From Sacramento, Sister Swing is a close-harmony group that includes Leigh Hannah, Valerie Marston and Paula Chafey-Merrill, who (as their bio goes) got together following a performance with the Nelson Riddle Orchestra in 1996. This track is their cover of the Andrews Sisters’ 1939 version, which (according to Wikipedia) peaked at #2 on the charts. I love the Andrews Sisters, but I like this one better. It was a serendipitous discovery – one of those link to a link to a link things. Score.
Caravan – Connie Evingson
Minneapolis-based, this track is from Ms. Evingson’s 2004 disc, “Gypsy In My Soul.” Truth is, there are a couple of other cuts from this disc in the heavy playlist, as well…but I only had 13 slots here. She’s been prolific in her output of recordings – every one shows a little different side – from playful to heartbreaking ballads. This is one of the warmer outings, and frankly – my favorite.
Cheek To Cheek – Christine Rosholt
Also Minneapolis-based, I thought Ms. Rosholt (right) was great on her debut album, “Detour Ahead.” But this one – “Lipstick, Live at the Dakota,” is even better. She’s looser here, I think – and the interaction with the band and the audience only adds to it all. I’m not usually a fan of live recordings, but the winsome Ms. Rosholt pulls it off nicely.
Night and Day – Karen Johns and Company This is from the album, “Stars and Seasons,” originally reviewed in 2008, Ms. Johns has one of the best life stories I’ve ever read. And the nicely-swinging music she and her band makes is top notch. Hails from Franklin, Tennessee. It’s near Nashville. I had to look it up.
Some Other Time – Jesse Palter From her “Beginning to see The Light” album, this Detroit-area native’s disc was a gift from my pal, Millie. And while the credits on the disc list Sammy Cahn and Jule Styne, it actually appears this one is a version penned by Betty Comden, Adolph Green and Leonard Bernstein for the 1944 Broadway Musical, “On The Town.” Ms. Palter’s youthful voice is a gift – to her, and to me. Pianist Mike Jellick sets the mood superbly.
Won’t Get Fooled Again – Wave Mechanics Union
This group of Indianapolis-area jazz and concert musicians made an outstanding choice in Lydia McAdams as their singer on their “Second Season” disc. Or perhaps she chose them. Either way, I’ve raved abouther singing before, and probably will again. Versatile, powerful. Whenever I’m low on energy, I punch this one up.
Too Close For Comfort – Airmen of Note The Airmen of Note are (is?) the jazz big band of the US Air Force. They play a lot around the DC area; this is from a 1999 recording, “Invitation,” which featured arrangements by people like Tommy Newsome and Bob Florence. Master Sergeant Tracey Wright fronted the band during this period, and she’s in top form on this recording. She’s now working in the DC area. Sure wish I could find more from her.
By the way, many of the “Airmen of Note” recordings are available online – start here. After all, you paid for it. Another vocalist with the band more recently, Paige Wroble, is also top notch.
Irene Atman – Summer Me, Winter Me From Ms. Atman’s first album, this became the definitive version for me, replacing Barbra Streisand. Ms. Atman’s best on the songs that need a quiet interpretation; never better than on this. Another who understands it all – from talent, to the backing band, to the packaging. Yes, there’s some advertising/marketing in her background. Splits her time between Toronto and New York, with (seems to me) annual trips to Asia, where by all accounts, they love her work. No wonder. Me, too.
Beyond The Sea – Carol Welsman
Very well known in her native Canada – Juno nominated! – Ms. Welsman now lives in Los Angeles, and like Sophie Milman, could use a little more publicity south of the border. This is from a 1996 recording, “Inclined.” Ms. Welsman is a pianist, as well as a singer. Her new “I Like Men” tribute to Peggy Lee is aces. So is this track.
You Go To My Head – L’Tanya Mari’
Another DC-area singer, Ms. Mari’s youthful voice is joined perfectly here with guitarist Paul Wingo, who has a nice solo in the middle. Ms. Mari’ is a Philadelphia native, who not only performs in the DC area, but she’s a music educator, as well. Not only my favorite from her “A Teardrop Of Sun” recording, but (from her notes), her favorite, as well.
On A Clear Day (You Can See Forever) – Nancy Harms
The final Minneapolis (what’s in the water?) native in this group, I think this one is going to be in the rotation for a while. I continue to be more impressed with Ms. Harms’ work on this recording every time I listen. Nice to see from her website that she’s staying busy. I don’t wonder. Speak Low – Catherine Carraway
Sort of a mystery woman to me. From the Charlottesville, Virginia, area according to her website, where she offers a couple of full-length mp3s, including this one. The track is hauntingly beautiful; the website hasn’t been updated in a while. The last performance listed was years ago, and a “hey, I’m writing a little something about this song” e-mail has (so far) gone unanswered. I play this track often. Not available anywhere else, to my knowledge, except free at Ms. Carraway’s website.
There are plenty of others – this is really the tip of the iceberg. I’m blessed by having good friends (and more than a few kind publicists) who know of my tastes in music, and help feed it.
I mentioned that Carol Welsman is much better known in her native Canada – here’s a clip from a 2006 CBC Television piece – a duet with legend Herbie Hancock:
No surprise – there are hundreds of singers on my iPod.
Sometimes, I have to check to see which one I’m listening to. Sometimes, I know from the way the singer sounds. In marketing, that’s called “product differentiation.”
It’s what makes this one stand out from the others; unique, as stated through the “Unique Selling Proposition” – the promise made to the consumer in the advertising.
“…when it absolutely, positively has to get there overnight.”
“…lasting more than four hours, seek medical help immediately.”
“We try harder.”
Oops. Showing my age, again.
Besides, you didn’t come here for Marketing 101.
Nancy Harms – In The Indigo
Released – November 19, 2009
You’ll not mistake Nancy Harms for anyone else.
Billie Holiday, Julie London, even Amy Winehouse or Madeleine Peyroux – I found touches of all of these singers, and yet I’ll probably need to begin a new category of vocalists who sound like Nancy Harms. It’s not only that the interpretations are different.
And it’s not only that her voice has that kind of cool that sometimes swings from heartbreaking to indifferent in eight bars.
It’s the package – that starts with the look on the cover of the CD, and goes on to deliver inside. It’s the look that says it would be really nice if you come along for this one, but if you don’t, well – that’s okay, too. Sultry, moody, anything but fragile, Ms. Harms creates a presence that is substantial – in control, and in my mind, it’s what separates her from those four I mentioned at the top.
This first disc is a trip that looks and sounds like anything but a maiden voyage. There are the requisite number of standards with a delivery that’s anything but; an offbeat John Mayer tune – “Great Indoors,” and a pair of originals, including the title track, and “Surprised By The Morning,” based upon a poem from Siri Myhrom, and featuring an outstanding turn by Kelly Rossum on trumpet.
“Bye Bye Blackbird” is the opener – and this disc will grab you about sixteen bars in. For reasons I cannot explain, I’ve fallen in love with the way Ms. Harms pronounces the word “astound” in a version of “On A Clear Day” that I find strangely compelling. I also thoroughly enjoyed “I’m Pulling Through,” a song I typically skip on the Billie Holiday or Diana Krall discs.
I talk about the whole package – that would include the group of musicians Ms. Harms has gathered for this, including Tanner Taylor on keyboards, Graydon Peterson on Bass, Jay Epstein on drums, Mr. Rossum on Trumpet, and Robert Bell on Guitar. Chico Chavez and Spencer McGinnis each take a track on drums.
By all accounts (here’s one at the MinnPost website), Ms. Harms was doing just fine as a small-town school teacher, and chucked it all to roll the dice on something different.
Oh my, the kids must be saying. Look at Ms. Harms now.
Am I smitten?
Highest recommendation for this outstanding piece of work. This one will be in heavy rotation on the ‘pod for some time to come.
One of these days, I’m going to do a rant on how those who are thinking about producing their own disc need to think about the whole package, and that includes spending the money on proper art for the cover.
None of this “I think my cousin has a friend who has Photoshop…” stuff. We’re talking curb appeal here, people. I can’t do it, but I work with good people who do good work, and like the old line about pornography, I know it when I see it.
Props to Ms. Harms for popping for good cover art. Also to Wendy Woods, the photographer who got it right for the front and back covers. If you go to Ms. Woods’ website, look under “headshots” for the original snaps for this disc. Stunning.
Inside shots for the disc are more intimate, and warmer – those were done by Lisa Venticinque, who apparently makes a living taking pictures of kids. Nice job on this big kid.