Jackie Ryan: Passion Flower (2001)
Passion Flower kicks off with a swinging “Now or Never,” which is a song that Billie Holiday might have been performing down on 52nd Street in the World War II years. Interestingly, this little-known gem was also written by Holiday with lyrics by Curtis Lewis. That muted trumpet is by Allen Smith, trading fours with Noel Jewkes’s tenor. Smith, by the way, played with the Benny Goodman orchestra, providing us with yet another link to the Big Band era. Ryan then eases into ”I Don’t Want to Cry Anymore” which Billie also sang during the ‘40s (so we can keep our World War II fantasy sequence alive). Both the words and music of this under-recorded ballad are by Victor Schertzinger, who wrote a few hits with Johnny Mercer (e.g., “Tangerine” and “I Remember You”). That lovely soulful trumpet solo is, once again, by Allen Smith. Ryan turns in a beautiful “Some Other Spring,” which is the saddest of songs; in fact this is the perfect song to listen to with half a pitcher of martinis and a heart full of regret. This Irene Kitchings’ tune was also recorded by Holiday during the World War II era.
“Luiza” is a lovely lesser-known Jobim song. Ryan sings it sublimely backed only by Larry Vuckovich’s lyrical piano. She handles the Portuguese lyrics with ease and with confidence. Ryan’s remarkable fluency with languages comes from her travels and associations with foreign musicians, as well as from her family; her mother is Mexican and her father Irish.
Each selection on Passion Flower is superb but I should also mention Ryan’s heartfelt flower medley tribute to Billy Strayhorn, which merges two of his most beautiful compositions, the title song, “Passion Flower” and “A Flower Is a Lovesome Thing.” These songs have unusual intervals and are difficult to sing. But, not to worry, Ryan is the complete jazz singer and is able to give each a new melodic fragrance. Finally, I should make mention of Ryan’s compositional gift. Tenor saxophonist Joe Henderson’s “The Kicker” was introduced on the classic 1964 Horace Silver album titled Song for My Father. It quickly became a bop standard but this is, I believe, the first vocal version. And those exceptional lyrics are by Ryan and they are a true “kicker.” Her stellar rhythm section consists of Jeff Chambers on bass, Eddie Marshall on drums and Luis Romero on percussion(on three tunes).
If we lived in a rational world, Jackie Ryan would be declared a national treasure. Pick this one up, light a candle, pour a glass of wine and enjoy. Jackie Ryan is a most lovely bridge to the past and, hopefully, also a bridge to the future. Highly recommended.
Track Listing: 1.Now or Never (Curtis R. Lewis and Billie Holiday) 2.I Don't Want to Cry Anymore (Victor Schertzinger) 3.Luiza (Antonio Carlos Jobim) 4.Lullaby of the Leaves (Beatrice Petkere and Joseph Young) 5.The Kicker (Joe Henderson and Jackie Ryan) 6.Some Other Spring (Irene Kitchings and Arthur Herzog, Jr.) 7.O Sil
Personnel: Jackie Ryan, vocals Larry Vuckovich, piano Allen Smith, trumpet Noel Jewkes, tenor sax Jeff Chambers, bass Eddie Marshall, drums Luis Romero, percussion
Record Label: OpenArt