For heaven’s sake! After reading Jim Merod’s laudatory liner notes to Jackie Ryan’s CD, I thought to myself that she’d have to be one helluva singer to live up to that kind of praise. Well, when all is said and done and the smoke has cleared, she is — at least, she’s close enough to make your average garden–variety curmudgeon sit up and take notice. It starts with the voice, unusually warm and often dusky but with remarkable range, enabling her to employ any stratagem from a whisper to a roar. Ryan’s articulation isn’t always precise, but her unerring sense of time and singular use of dynamics easily cover that tiny blemish while leaving no doubt that she truly is a Jazz singer. She sings with emotion that sounds more honest than affected, which (to me) is one of the marks of a superior vocalist. Another is respect for a lyric, letting the song tell the story without needless hyperbole, which Ryan does much of the time, starting with a wonderfully moving rendition of “Someone to Light Up My Life.” She shows her proficiency in Spanish (or Portuguese; I can’t tell the difference) on that one, as she does on “Caminhos Cruzados,” “Cuando Vuelva tu Lado” (What a Difference a Day Made) and “Samba de Rei.” For pure emotion there’s Cole Porter’s “I Concentrate on You,” Paul Francis Webster / Sonny Burke’s “Black Coffee” or the lovely “For Heaven’s Sake,” for sheer fun and high spirits, “Comes Love,” Ellington / Strayhorn’s “You Better Know It” or the playful finale, “What a Little Moonlight Can Do.” Ryan was recorded live at the Lime Leaf in La Jolla, CA, and one thing she didn’t have to worry about was the artistry or steadfastness of her back–up unit, led by crowd–pleasing pianist Mike Wofford and including the other members of his working trio, bassist Rob Thorsen and drummer Duncan Moore. The San Francisco–based Ryan, of Mexican–Irish descent, looks as good as she sings, which is beside the point but can’t hurt her career chances, as that seems to be an important criterion these days when appraising female Jazz vocalists. What matters most, however, is that Ryan is an excellent singer, and For Heaven’s Sake
is a splendid showcase for her talent.
Contact:BluePort, 2933 Cacatua, La Costa, CA 92009 (e–mail BluePort@aol.com) or Open Art Music, P.O. Box 131, Mill Valley, CA 94942 (www.jackieryanmusic.com).
Personnel: Jackie Ryan, vocals; Mike Wofford, piano; Rob Thorsen, bass; Duncan Moore, drums.