Louise Rogers & Rick Strong: Bass-ically Speaking (2004)
Louise Rogers, a singer with great chops and a warm, witty approach to song, owes a debt, whether consciously or not, to the legendary Sheila Jordan. The latter's approach to improvising (note, among other signs, Rogers' scatting on the title track), as well as the voice-bass format, is evident. But Rogers uses these as a jumping-off point to create her own concept. In Rogers' and Rick Strong's hands the voice/bass format works; they combine seamlessly.
It was not the best idea, however, to include "Dat Dere," a Jordan signature piece, on this date. But elsewhere, however, signs of individualism abound. For one, Strong plays not only string bass, but six-string electric bass too. On "Angel in the House," the electric instrument's guitar-like timbre gives the project a texture different from other voice/bass offerings, and the song emerges as a folk/pop ballad. Here, as on "Willow Weep for Me," Rogers uses vocal overdubbing sparingly and tastefully. Rachelle Ferrell's "Peace on Earth" adds a contemporary pop flavor to the proceedings, and Rogers hits some thrilling, sure-footed sustained tones at the top of her range.
Most of the songs here are noted as being based on or inspired by specific performers or performances. Rogers credits a Bill Evans solo as the spark for the straight-ahead groove on "Autumn Leaves." "Twisted," inspired by Annie Ross (and arguably her signature song), might have been better left alone, though.
It remains to be seen if she continues to develop her own style, stepping out of the shadows of others. Ironically, "Shenandoah," a song that would be perfect for Jordan, is the best track from the session. Rogers mines the song's inherent longing in a strong, yet reflective reading. Here, more than anywhere else on this CD, she sings in her own skin, dropping the fetters of mere interpretation to tap a wellspring of emotion.
Track Listing: Bass-ically Speaking, Angel in the House, Twisted, Willow Weep for Me, Autumn Leaves, Peace on Earth, Dat Dere, Nana, I Thought About You, Shenandoah
Personnel: Louise Rogers, vocals; Rick Strong, string bass and 6-string electric bass
Record Label: Rilo Records