Jackie Ryan: Listen Here (2013)
There exists an intersection point in a vocal recording where four elements coalesce in excellence to produce a superb recording: the vocal, instrumental, material and sonic. Singer Jackie Ryan's Listen Here exists on this very point. AAJ critic Dan Bilawsky addressed the first two elements in his thoughtful review of Listen Here, calling Ryan, "a force of nature" and her instrumental support, " damn good," observations easily echoed here and not improved upon. The latter pair of elements deserve a bit of attention because the difference between "good" and "exceptional" song choice and engineering is often quite great, illustrating just how seldom they are achieved.
Listen Here, Ryan's sixth release, using bassist John Clayton and friends as her instrumental fulcrum, aligns with all of the good stars creating something really quite special. Ryan's material choice is crucial in this creative alignment. The singer avoids writer Scott Yanow's moratorium pieces detailed in that author's The Jazz Singers: The Ultimate Guide (Backbeat Books, 2008). The tried-and-true songs Ryan does entertain she transforms significantly.
Three such songs include: "Gypsy in My Soul" which instead of giving a more traditional Hot Club treatment, Ryan plays straight, with Clayton's solid walking bass, crisply captured sonically, propelling things along after a fractured hard bop head. "Accentuate The Positive" is given a gospel-testifying coat of paint which the Arlen/Mercer masterpiece wears very well. Gerald Clayton's piano and B-3 wall-of-sound deepens the gospel groove that Ryan runs with, lighting a torch in the process. The organ is captured just above the piano, further capturing the spiritual groove. Ricky Woodward's tenor saxophone softens the gospel influence with a bit of bad, bar- walking wailing making this a most refreshing performance of this old favorite. Ryan sings the Gershwin's "I Loves You Porgy" almost operatically. Gerald Clayton's piano support is solid, aurally more comparable to a classical recital than jazz. The elder Clayton's bass adds the jazz to the opera, but not before Ryan shows her depth. Ryan proves that her tone and timbre are solid to the edges with a substantial midrange.
Of the remaining songs, Ryan steps out with pianist Jon Mayer's "Rip Van Winkle," sporting lyrics by singer/lyricist Mark Winkler. The singer owns the song within Clayton's sharp arrangement. Trumpeter Gilbert Castellianos provides a tart and hot solo that compliments Ryan's own seasoned delivery. Ryan closes the disc with pianist/composer Dave Frishberg's playful and balladic "Listen Here." She sings the song with a breathy care building into her full- blown delivery which is indeed "a force of nature," one deserving to unleash more frequently.
Track Listing: Comin' Home Baby; The Gypsy In My Soul; Throw It Away; Accentuate The Positive; Anytime, Any Day, Anywhere; I Loves You Porgy; How Little We Know (How Little It Matters); La Puerta; Rip Van Winkle; A Time For Love; No One Ever Tells You; Before We Fall In Love; To The Ends Of The Earth; Listen Here.
Personnel: Jackie Ryan: vocals; Gerald Clayton: piano, organ; John Clayton: bass; Gilbert Castellanos: trumpet; Graham Dechter: guitar; Obed Calvaire: drums; Rickey Woodward: saxophone.