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CD/LP/TRACK REVIEW

Roberta Gambarini: Easy to Love

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With all due caution about overstatement, let me say that I don't know of a better pure jazz vocalist than Roberta Gambarini. She shows us all that the art of jazz singing is alive and well. During the past few years she has become almost a cult figure, thrilling live international audiences, becoming the subject of enthusiastic discussions on various internet jazz chat forums, and being hailed by numerous insiders as perhaps today's finest young jazz singer. Gambarini is now signed, and the recording that everyone has been waiting for is finally here.

Perhaps the first thing one notes on ...

BUILDING A JAZZ LIBRARY

Jazz With Strings

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Please note the title of this collection. It does not include symphony orchestras playing jazz compositions. Nor does it feature what is known as “third stream" music, which is the combination of jazz and classical elements for what is hoped to be a unified whole. No, just like the title says, this collection includes jazz musicians performing jazz with string sections. Jazz-with-strings is where the passion of jazz meets the power of an orchestra.

This musical genre has a fairly long history. Jean Goldkette and Paul Whiteman's bands used strings in the 1920s, and in 1936 clarinetist Artie Shaw recorded ...

CD/LP/TRACK REVIEW

Merle Haggard: Unforgettable

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Merle Haggard is, as the great Duke Ellington used to say, “beyond category." Like the best, he is a genre-defying artist. There is a strong influence of both jazz and blues in Haggard's work, though it's usually labeled as country and western. For example, he phrases like a jazz singer and he features horns in his exceptional band, The Strangers--and, unlike almost all other country singers, he actually gives the band a chorus. Perhaps most importantly, he and the band swing. Like full-fledged jazz singers, Haggard phrases with the assurance of a singer who knows where the pulse is all ...

CATCHING UP WITH

Chatting With Jackie Ryan

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Jackie Ryan is a San Francisco-based vocalist with three excellent CDs available. The most recent two are on Open Art records, the latest is titled This Heart of Mine.All About Jazz: Congratulations on your latest CD, This Heart of Mine. It is an exceptional vocal album and certainly one of the best in the past few years.Jackie Ryan Thank you so much, Roger. It was so fun to do... a labor of love--all the way through to the mix. I loved working with the engineers as much as I loved recording it. It was the most ...

LIVE REVIEWS

Tierney Sutton At Monteleone's

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As Tom Monteleone seated us in his attractive San Fernando club, pianist Dave Mackay and bassist Kenny Wilde were doing some lovely things with I Can’t Get Started. Dave’s chords, in contrast to the extroverted masses that most pianists use, turn in and muse. No pianist gets a better sound out of the instrument. Kenny, who has played with Dave for many years, gave him magisterial support on this Vernon Duke evergreen. A quick pan around any room in which vocalist Tierney Sutton is performing provides a measure of respect that she engenders among her fellow musicians. During the first ...

CD/LP/TRACK REVIEW

Jackie Ryan: This Heart of Mine

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You simply cannot sing a song any better than Jackie Ryan does. And you cannot make a better jazz vocal CD than this one. It is perfect. If that sounds too reverent, let me change the praise to “perfectly wonderful.” Each of the elements is truly wonderful: the choice of songs, the arrangements, accompanying musicians, even the ordering of the songs. And, most importantly, of course, Jackie Ryan! She is a smart, sophisticated vocalist for grown ups and this is her finest record and, in fact, may well be the best jazz vocal disc of 2003. If justice does exist, ...

CD/LP/TRACK REVIEW

Armonica: From Me to You

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The word “armonica” has two meanings, both relating to music. An armonica is a glass harmonica (which, interestingly, was invented by Benjamin Franklin) and it is also the Italian word for “harmony.” So Armonica, the Portland-based singer, has the perfect name to accompany her marvelous singing. By the way, this is not a name that she chose to enhance her musical career. Her parents so named her.

Armonica opens her stellar debut CD with a bouncy reading of Peggy Lee’s noted song, “I Love Being Here With You,” and she sounds like she means it, singing with much naturalness and ...

CD/LP/TRACK REVIEW

Hanna Richardson and Phil Flanigan: Something to Remember You By

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Vocalist Hanna Richardson will most likely be a new name to you. But hopefully not for long.

She has a natural, relaxed voice and was born to sing. Her warm timbre and uncomplicated phrasing are notable for their ease and expressiveness. You understand every word she sings-- and, given her selections on this CD, the lyrics deserve to be heard. Richardson’s rich alto has an autumnal quality, perhaps the aural equivalent of alpenglow. And the lady can swing.

In fact, the CD kicks off with a gently swinging version of the cute, under-performed Loesser and Lane “How’dja Like to Love ...

CD/LP/TRACK REVIEW

Sunna Gunnlaugs: Fagra Verold

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An Icelandic woman who leads her own group is not the most common thing in jazz, but pianist Sunna Gunnlaugs just may be the best jazz pianist you’ve never heard. As a child she played polkas and Beatles tunes on the organ in her homeland, but an encounter with an LP by pianist Bill Evans was, as she states, “the key that unlocked her creative spirit.” Although born in Iceland, she came to the United States to study music in 1992. She liked it so well that she decided to stay and is now living and performing in New York ...

MULTIPLE REVIEWS

Marian McPartland's Piano Jazz

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Bill Evans, Oscar Peterson, Chick Corea, Carmen McRae

Marian McPartland’s Peabody Award-winning Piano Jazz radio series profiling various musicians has been popular for 25 years and has featured over 300 musical guests. These four segments – two previously issued on CD and two new ones – make a valuable addition to this ongoing NPR series. For example, both Bill Evans and Oscar Peterson are very articulate men as well as superb pianists, and prove to be excellent interviewees. Each of these great jazz pianists eagerly and candidly discusses their musical approaches and philosophy. The Evans disc, which was first released ...

CD/LP/TRACK REVIEW

Patricia Barber: Verse

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Verse is Patricia Barber's seventh album since her 1989 debut, Split, on the little known and poorly distributed Floyd Records, named after her musician father, Floyd Barber. Her second album, A Distortion of Love , was released on the Verve Antilles label and did not appear until three years later, but it brought the Chicago-based singer to public attention. Since 2000 she has been on the esteemed Blue Note label.

No one sounds like Barber--which, of course, is what you want from a jazz singer. Her vocal phrasing, rhythm and timbre are unique. Barber is an idiosyncratic song stylist whose ...

CD/LP/TRACK REVIEW

Cindy Scott: Major to Minor

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Houston-based vocalist Cindy Scott strikes gold her first time out. Major to Minor is an exceptional debut album, a happy collaboration between an exciting new singer and a cadre of superior jazz artists. This CD is somewhat of a culmination of material that Scott developed with pianist/arranger Gary Norian and other musicians at a steady gig they had at Cïzanne, a noted Houston jazz club.

The function of sidemen, as I see it, is to stimulate, inspire, excite, push, drive, goad and coax their colleagues. And, boy, this band stimulates and pushes Scott. Their efforts, however, do not ...

CD/LP/TRACK REVIEW

Dragana: I Still Feel You

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Dragana has a last name, of course. But we folks in the States have trouble with a pile of consonants, so she is simply “Dragana,” a unique name for a unique singer. This lovely and talented young lady was born in Belgrade (former Yugoslavia) and her interest in music was realized at the early age of four. When she was eight her family moved to Novi Sad, where she studied music at the University of Art. Dragana graduated and received her Degree in Composition in 1993. She moved to the United States in 1994, arriving with only a single suitcase ...

CD/LP/TRACK REVIEW

Lisa Hindmarsh: Lost in a Summer Night

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Lisa Hindmarsh is probably a new name to you but, hopefully, not for long. This exceptional young singer currently lives in Pittsburgh (well, actually in McMurray, a few miles to the south). Lost in a Summer Night is her second CD, following last year’s debut, Now I Know. She is, seemingly, at her best when digging into melancholy songs like the title song, Andre Previn’s “Lost in a Summer Night.” “The lyrics evoke wonderful imagery,” Hindmarsh writes in her well-written and informative liner notes, “You can almost hear the crickets and smell the summer night air.” This is true and ...



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