Bay Area vocalist Laurie Antonioli has been performing and recording for more than 30 years. Early on she mixed paints with the likes of Joe Henderson, Mark Murphy and Pony Poindexter with whom she undertook an 8-month European junket in 1980, quickening her already impressive jazz chops. Antonioli's discography is a slim yet intense affair that is full of brilliant pathos and musicianship. She has had much time pass between releases resulting in a sonic career where her evolution as an artist is experienced in fits and starts. That was, until the release of American Dreams (Intrinsic Music, 2010) when ...read more
Stacy Kent The Changing Lights Warner Bros. Records 2013 Stacey Kent has had an impressive musical run: Breakfast on the Morning Tram (Blue Note, 2007, for which she was nominated for a Grammy Award), Raconte- moi... (Blue Note, 2010), Dreamer In Concert (Blue Note, 2011) just being her previous three recordings of her ten releases as a leader. She is intelligent, polyglot and capable of performing in any genre or language. Her voice is one of soft evenness, it has a delicate density that extend over her impressive range. ...read more
Those of us who know better laughed, snickered, recently, when we read that Harlem-based vocalist extraordinaire Mansur Scott was a rising star." We will agree that he is definitely a star" because he always shines when he sings. His first album, Sometimes Forgotten Sometimes Remembered (Pao Records, 2010), was excellent and caught the attention of a great deal of music lovers. His latest recording, Great Voices Of Harlem (Pao Records) includes two other singers, Gregory Porter and Donald Smith, who shine, too. Porter, he of the velvety-heavily- church influenced chops, who is one of hottest acts ...read more
The concept of a jazz-informed program of Joni Mitchell tunes isn't exactly novel anymore. Herbie Hancock's high profile River: The Joni Letters (Verve, 2007) took home two Grammy Awards; vocalist Tierney Sutton got some well-deserved attention when she put her own spin on Mitchell's work with After Blue (BFM, 2013); somewhat under-the-radar releases from artists like David Lahm and Rachel Z have made something of an impact on a smaller scale; and numerous other albums that aren't necessarily built around Mitchell's work have been sprinkled with her songs. Joni Mitchell has become something of a lodestar for ...read more
Harlem has long been known as an incubator for talent, birthing and/or nurturing some of the all-time greats in music, literature, and art. Nearly a century separates the dawning of the famed Harlem Renaissance and the creation of this album, but Great Voices Of Harlem serves as undeniable proof that this large neighborhood at the north end of Manhattan still holds artistic treasures within its borders. Great Voices Of Harlem, in some respects, isn't just a nod to three great talents that were honed and developed in Harlem; it's a recorded microcosm of the vocal jazz scene ...read more
Andrea Balducci Bloom Schema 2012 Italian vocalist Andrea Balducci is so earnestly hip and so perfectly coiffed (he is a lawyer, after all) he is almost a metaphor: a talented metaphor. His debut recording, Bloom is equally hip and coiffed as the singer himself. With a keen ear for the edge of nostalgia, Balducci assembles a repertoire from 1960s American popular music. The heady brief Balducci prepares for us is one almost too slick to be real or serious, but he stops well before the edge of maudlin pathos. ...read more
love dot com is an album of standards and contemporary jazz/pop songs from Scottish vocalist Todd Gordon. It follows his 2012 release with the Royal Air Force Squadronaires, Helping the Heroes (Specific Jazz) but while that album featured a big band and a series of top-flight guest singers, love dot com is a much gentler affair. Some excellent, and unexpected, song choices can be found here. Karl Wallinger's She's The One," Jimmy Webb's Didn't We" and Roddy Frame's Somewhere In My Heart" are all beautiful, catchy, songs that sit comfortably with Gordon's approach. Gordon is an avowed Frank ...read more
New York City became the new jazz mecca during the 1920s, when many top jazz musicians from jny: Chicago and the rest of the U.S. migrated to the Big Apple. Jazz musicians from around the globe moved there every decade, knowing New York has some of the top jazz venues in the world, a dozen jazz festivals, and numerous jazz record labels. Competition is tremendous, but The City of Dreams" remains the best place for a jazz musician to gain exposure and build an international reputation. Renowned Mexican jazz singer and musician Magos Herrera, knows that all too ...read more
A typical jazz format perhaps, but the delivery on Simon Tander's second CD is anything but typical. As on her memorable debut Wagma (Neuklang Records, 2011), Tander sings in various languages--English, French--and in her improvised language. Here, however, Tander explores her roots by singing in pashto--her Afghan father's language--with mesmerizing results. On Wagma, Tander already sounded conceptually and musically fairly rounded, but Where Water Travels Home comes across as a more mature and personal work, one that reaffirms Tander's credentials as an original contemporary singer. Tander casts her seductive spell on the opening number, Yau Tar De Grewan" ...read more
Maud Hixson has built an accomplished career as a performer and recording artist out of unlikely circumstances. She grew up far from the capitals of jazz and vocal music, in the Twin Cities area. Doris Day's performance in the Ruth Etting biopic Love Me Or Leave Me" served as a primary inspiration for a young Maud to become a performer. In her twenties, waiting tables at a diner, she met another future jazz singer, Nichola Miller. With no glamour and lots of hard work, Hixson began spending long hours researching scores and studying the recordings of such greats as Blossom ...read more
The Johanna Graham Quartet Pizza Express Soho, London 25 May 2014 Seated under a photo of Kurt Elling's pearly whites, listening to the Johanna Graham quartet's first gig at Pizza Express in Soho was a pleasing and enjoyable experience. Jazz fans aren't that fond of hearing new vocalists sing live --on the whole, it's a mixed bag of painful and cringe worthy possibilities-- the weather, temperature, a miserable audience, variable health, dodgy band relations; all take their toll on the front voice of the band. Not so this evening, a touch of vocal nerves to ...read more
Melissa Morgan Quartet Bach Dancing & Dynamite Society Half Moon Bay, Ca. May 11, 2014As is often customary, vocalist Melissa Morgan did not immediately appear on stage while her trio of Los Angeles based musicians, pianist Sam Hirsh,bassist Katie Thiroux, and Matt Witek on drums, opened the show with an old standard, Satin Doll." It was the first time these musicians played the Bach. To a person, they were thrilled at the opportunity to join a long list of legendary performers who have graced the stage at the Bach Dancing & Dynamite Society. The quartet ...read more
Say their names: Kate Bush, Lordes, Johanna Graham. There's a common thread between these women--a need for drama, designed lyrics and a refreshingly diminished thirst for quick-fix mass appeal, which makes them seem lacking in the lust-for-fame department. What do they have to prove to anyone? The lyrics they write and sing have lived-in depth, their tune arrangements are effortlessly catchy and they are artists whose musical voices are, and will probably remain, timeless; regardless the generation to which they feel they belong. Of course Kate Bush and Lordes aren't jazz singers, charting the rise to success of ...read more
Great Voices Of Harlem showcases the vocal talents of three most fascinating jazz singers--Gregory Porter, Donald Smith and Mansur Scott. Ably supported by Paul Zauner's Blue Brass, the vocalists put their very individual stamps on some classic songs. The result is a stylish, classy, recording. Scott gets the lion's share of credits, with appearances on seven tracks to Smith and Porter's four apiece (all three share vocals on Horace Silver's Peace"). Porter, a Grammy-winning international star, is the name likely to attract the most attention for this release. Smith--the brother of Lonnie Liston Smith--and Scott have been around ...read more
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