Maryann Price: Jazzland
Maryann Price has finally come out with a new album, and a very good one indeed. Despite a recording career which has developed with groups like Dan Hicks and His Hot Licks, The Kinks and Asleep at the Wheel Maryann has always gravitated around jazz, and according to Dan Hicks himself "(she) is a jazzer, and sings jazz and likes jazz best". "Jazzland", the title of her latest solo output, clearly defines with authority the genre she seems to have stuck with, but yet there are some clear traces of her 'other' musical background: the result is a jazz album where western swing and country are blended together in a perfect equilibrium with the improvisatory artistry of the musicians that play in it.
Maryann just seems born to sing jazz. She has a medium sized voice with an excellent pitch, a rubbery elasticity and a great variety of timbres that enables her to express at its best her exuberant personality. She can sound mature and wise or carefree like a little girl, or come through as a rural version of Annie Ross, with a similar sardonic wit (and a similar way to sing certain notes, with a slightly acid edge and an ability to add an abrasive vibrato that almost sounds like a trumpet shake) smoothened, in Maryann's case, by a more naive quality of the voice. Another great quality of hers is the apparent absence of self-complacency. There's not a single note she sings that appears to be carefully conceived just for the sake of producing a beautiful sound. She certainly doesn't seem to care if the delivery isn't perfectly polished and if there are a few rough spots here and there. She just abandons herself to the joy of singing, and she never sings for the pure intent of showing what a pretty voice she has. Even when she swoops on her highest register, approaching and even surpassing a high C, she never sings it with the pseudo-operatic prettiness of sound that many self-conscious singers would strive to acquire. Her voice soars up rather wildly, rather evoking the image of a girl who has just seen a rat rather than that of a regal Opera Diva. The result is much more spontaneous and, above all, fun.
Maryann approaches the whole recording with an infectious enthusiasm and with great energy, her voice beginning abruptly, without any kind of intro, right on the CD's first track, handling a hard-swinging "Give me the simple life", sung with irony and with ripples of carefree scat, and lacing the last word of the song with an almost coquettish, delicate vibrato. "Jazzland" is made of a few standards, a Dan Hicks song, a couple of Dave Frishberg gems - Maryann seems to have a particular affinity for his material and fully captures his kind of bittersweet irony- and other songs that will sound rather new to many vocal jazz fans. Among them you'll find one of the album's highlights, a very interesting tune which is a kind of reply to the Ultimate Torch Song, "Cry me a river" ; penned by Maryann and Floyd Domino, "The Apology" has very clever lyrics and a serpentine melody that crawls in and out of the notes that belong to "Cry me a river". A song like that will certainly make you forgive the album's minor flaw, that is the lack of any truly gut-wrenching ballad that could showcase Maryann's way with a dramatic song. And, besides that, Maryann talent, coupled with the musicians backing her –in particular a very strong rhythm section that provide an energetic accompaniment – is enough to make “Jazzland” a very interesting and entertaining album, that one will drink up in a whole gurgle just as it was a fresh lemonade on a thirsty Summer day.
Track Listing: Simple life, Sweet Kentucky ham, My heart belongs to daddy, The apology, It's hard to keep a family together, Small Fry, The way I feel about you, One horse town, News from up the street, I love you too much. Boogie woogie blue plate.
Personnel: Ernie Durawa, A.D. Mannion, Art Kidd, George "Big Beat" Rains (drums); Tom Clarkson (bass); Floyd Domino, Gene Taylor, Rich Harney (piano); Rick McRae, Fred Walter, Preston Hubbard, Junior Watson (guitar); John Mills, Alex Coke, Pat "Taco" Ryan, Kaz Kazanoff (reeds); Mike Mordechai (trombone); Phil Richey, Martin banks, Gary Schlecta (trumpet & flugelhorn)