Aimee Nolte – Looking For The Answers

Aimee Nolte’s voice is beautiful, sonorous and reflective on her latest album Looking For The Answers, The singer arranged and produced every track on the album, lending a consistent aesthetic and laid-back vibe to most of the cuts here. What separates Nolte from other vocalists and composers is the poetry and storytelling quality of her compositions, with lyrics reminescent of Joni Mitchell – just minus Mitchell playfulness. “Save Me One Last Time” speaks to the bandleadeader’s seriousness as a lyricists when the theme of lost love is addressed: “If I keep on falling, I’ll be lost forever/ Save me one last time.”Nolte exhibits her jazz chops on “Bye Bye Blackbird”, when she pleasantly scats as John Clayton accopanies her on bass. Despite instrumentalists coming and going track to track, Looking For The Answers is pretty even-keeled listen. Dough Webb and John Reilly on woodwinds round out “The Loveliest Girl” and “Save Me One Last Time,” respectively. And drummmer James Yoshizawa delivers throughout the recording with a soft, but steady, attention to mantaining the rhytm, making his performances incospicuos, until the listener realizes that his reliability helps drive the entire album. “For A While” closes things out with Nolte on piano, sans vocals, letting listeners take in the bandleader’s full abilities at the keyboard while she paints a chromatic ballad that’s sure to delight. – Michele L. Simms-Burton (Downbeat)  ...

Allan Harris pay tribute to Bill Evans/Tony Bennett

Bill Evans’s wistful, lightly skipping “Waltz for Debby” is a classic 1950s jazz composition that doesn’t really need words to conjure an evanescent childhood dream world. But its lyrics, added several years later by Gene Lees, about a little girl who will soon outgrow her “dolls and clowns and a big purple bear,” deepen the poignancy of a song that imagines those toys missing her once she abandons them. Enlarge This Image Ruby Washington/The New York Times Allan Harris performing songs from his CD “Convergence.” To hear the jazz singer Allan Harris pouring warmth and tenderness into that song, which he performed in an exquisitely syncopated vocal arrangement on Tuesday evening at the Metropolitan Room, was to peek into a child’s enchanted toy land through the eyes of a devoted father. Music Review  By STEPHEN HOLDEN for The New York Times Published: August 29, 2012 That performance was the high point of Mr. Harris’s new show, which remembers the ’70s duet albums that Evans recorded with Tony Bennett. Mr. Harris’s new album with the pianist Takana Miyamoto, “Convergence” (Love Productions Records), consists of recordings of 10 songs from the Bennett-Evans sessions that closely echo the style and spirit of the originals. Orrin Evans (no relation to Bill) was Mr. Harris’s excellent pianist on Tuesday. Mr. Harris’s formidable baritone, with its husky edges and deep, resonant low notes, bears little resemblance to Mr. Bennett’s tenor-baritone. But the two singers are temperamentally quite similar. When Mr. Harris mutes his lurking blues bark, he closely resembles Nat King Cole. His approach is polite, pleasant and reassuring without being bland. Mr. Harris performed the songs in the same order that they appear on “Convergence,” with only one addition, a fragment of “When in Rome,” a number he was still in the process of learning and for which he played guitar. A lightly swinging version...

Tessa Souter “Beyond The Blue”

Three of the tracks—“The Lamp Is Low,” based on Ravel’s “Pavane”; “My Reverie,” built from Debussy’s “Rêverie”; and “Baubles, Bangles and Beads,” from Borodin’s “String Quartet in D”—will be instantly recognizable, though Souter’s slow, sensual readings are stunningly original. A fourth is based on another Borodin composition, his “Polovetsian Dances,” transformed more than a half-century ago into “Stranger in Paradise,” but here reimagined by Souter as the more intimately romantic “Dance With Me.” The eight remaining tracks embrace source material both familiar (Beethoven’s “Seventh Symphony,” Brahms’ “Symphony No. 3”) and comparatively obscure (Tomaso Albinoni’s “Adagio in G Minor,” Gabriel Fauré’s “Pavane” and his “Elegy”), all refitted with splendidly crafted Souter lyrics. In the liner notes, Souter says that the majority of the arrangements “emerged spontaneously in the studio.” Such alchemic dexterity is a rare pleasure. By Christopher Loudon “Jazz...

Dorian Devins – Two New Releases

New York centered jazz singer and lyricist Dorian Devins first rocked my sensitive Southern Consciousness in 2013 with the release of The Procrastinator (Rain1 Jazz). Devins marked a return to that jazz step-child, vocalese: the application of lyrics to well-known wordless jazz compositions. The recording was a cornerstone of that year. Devins played a very large part on The Lou Rainone Quintet +1’s Skydance singing two of her compositions (Rain1jazz, 2015). Here on the fulcrum between then and now, Devins releases CD and EP, Imaginary Release and City Stories, back to back, much to our delight. Dorian Devins has a genuine knack for intelligent and thoughtful programming for her projects. The Procrastinator focused intensely on vocalese, others and her own. While bringing a remnant of vocalese to Imaginary Release, Devins expands her creative reach to include some classical hybridization and a nod to the age of Classic Rock. A cheeky allusion to the fact that this release will be available only in a digital format, Imaginary Release shows both creative and performance growth on the part of Devins. The singer adapts two Eric Satie melodies for the medium tempo “Lament for the Moon” and the Eastern-slanted “Satie-ated,” both with the harmonic help of husband/pianist Lou Raineone. Devins extends this Eastern motif into Traffic’s “Hidden Treasures.” She does a straight vocalese on the Ellington/Lee classic, “I’m Gonna Go Fishin'” where her performance is tart, precise, and swinging. Devins’ phrasing presently has no peer. The singer penned words for Wayne Shorter‘s “Conundrum,” making a slick Latin piece punctuated by Rainone’s fine piano interludes. Her straight jazz here is formidable. Leonard Bernstein‘s “Some Other Time” is delicately arranged by Rainone and sung by Devins, displaying her potent alto voice. Benny Goodman‘s “Lullaby in Rhythm” is freshened up considerably, and features Richie Vitale‘s sharp trumpet playing and Tom Christensen‘s woody reeds. The surprise...

Till Bronner – The Good Life

The Good Life marks the trumpeter and vocalist’s return to straight-ahead jazz after a self-titled outing that paid homage to CTI in 2012, and 2014’s Movie Album, which treated film themes as contemporary jazz numbers. This 13-song set contains 11 standards and two originals. Brönnersurrounded himself with a crack band of sidemen — pianist Larry Goldings, guitarist Anthony Wilson, bassist John Clayton, and drummer Jeff Hamilton — at the legendary Ocean Way studio in Los Angeles with Dutch producer Ruud Jacobs. The vibe throughout is airy, thoughtful, and relaxed (the album’s subtitle is “Music for Peaceful Moments”); the charts are direct but not lightweight. The opener is a reading of Sasha Distel‘s and Jack Reardon‘s title track that reveals his gentle, warm horn in the melody atop a lithe, brushed drum kit groove accentuated by Clayton‘s walking bassline, liquid fills from Wilson, and Goldings‘ intimate accents. In his most authoritative vocal performances on record, Brönner still directly references Chet Baker‘s singing, but the phrasing nuances of Michael Franks and Bob Dorough are reflected in his delivery of the breezy yet swinging renditions of “Come Dance with Me,” the bossa-tinged interpretation of Irving Berlin‘s “Change Partners,” and the straight-up fingerpopping “I May Be Wrong”– with a choice solo by Wilson. On his own “O Que Resta” (an instrumental) Brönner frames his own lyrical playing in the long shadow cast by Miles Davis during his Gil Evans period. Goldings‘ break is close, humid, and gorgeous. “I’ll Be Seeing You” is an iconic Billie Holiday number. Brönner even sings until the midway point — long after the band establishes a lithe, loping groove, and he delivers a fine flügelhorn solo. When he begins to vocalize, the focus has shifted and it’s a clever addendum. More ambitious is the read of “In the Wee Small Hours of the Morning,” inseparably associated with Frank...

Sara Gazarek & Josh Nelson – Dream In The Blue

Since 2002, vocalist Sara Gazarek and pianist Josh Nelson have nurtured an uncommonly strong musical bond. It’s no mere happenstance that Nelson played as a band member on all four of Gazarek’s albums, and she, in turn, sang on two of Nelson’s own recording projects. But over the past 18 months, this Los Angeles-based pair has taken their collaboration to a new level, touring extensively as a duo and developing a diverse repertoire that showcases their combined artistic maturation. Gazarek and Nelson recorded their new album Dream in the Blue (funded exclusively through the crowd-sourcing website pledgemusic.com) as a tribute to their extraordinary partnership. “I remember feeling so incredibly comfortable with Josh that I held on tight and never looked back,” says Gazarek, recalling their very first gig in LA. “We’ve spent the last decade and more writing together, arranging, recording, making silly videos; essentially growing up together, personally and musically.” Nelson, in addition to citing his close rapport with Gazarek, sees Dream in the Blue as “a nice snapshot of our musical tastes in general — decidedly welcoming and accessible for a wide variety of audiences.” The intimate qualities of Dream in the Blue largely derive from the duo’s earnest reflection on their individual experiences and confront both light and dark aspects of the human condition. “I realized the fragility of the gift of love,” Gazarek says of recent life changes, “and the importance of vulnerability and gratitude in our most precious relationships. The songs took on a searching heaviness that I hadn’t explored before.” Nelson similarly identifies a shift in approach that situates their work into a more introspective space: “I feel like I came back to my traditional jazz roots on this album. My previous records have been more modern and theme oriented. I also hear a strong ‘West Coast’ sound on this album, a forward-thinking...

« Older Entries