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For Jane Stuart, dance in general – and tap in particular – gave that rhythmic sensibility that would allow her to take liberties in the music, and always be spot on. That's why she was so drawn to jazz. The music is so unencumbered – like a blank slate - affording her the freedom she always felt. And the lyrics she sought out served as a catharsis – a way to work through life's many complexities and difficulties at a young age.
For an artist who modeled, acted, sang and danced professionally since age 5, hung out (and played hooky) with classmate friends Bernadette Peters, Greg Hines and Bonnie Bedelia, and portrayed Joan Baez in Richard Farina’s Long Time Comin’ A Long Time Gone alongside co-stars Richard Gere, Vicki Sue Robinson and Jessica Harper, jazz singer might not be what one would expect to see on this list. But since her vast music and arts background exposed her to a wide world of genres, she had such a rich palette from which to draw, and jazz just felt right.
As a first-call studio & jingle singer, you've most likely heard her voice in numerous high-profile ad campaigns both solo, as well as in ensemble with Valerie Simpson, Patti Austin, Shawn Colvin and many others, but her 2006 release, Beginning To See The Light, finally gave jazz audiences an 'extended play' of Jane's jazzier side. This long-awaited disc was enthusiastically received by media and audiences alike, and earned her IAJE’s Best Jazz Vocals accolades for that year. Her latest effort, Don't Look Back, is certain to broaden her fan base exponentially.
Jane's affinity for arranging emerged early on. “My father died when I was 13. My mother, a legal secretary, worked long, hard hours and my brother was away at school. I spent a lot of time alone. I would make up arrangements of old standards and sing them in my head while doing a tap routine on my fingers. I remember so many of those songs now, when I am looking for material to sing.”
A musician's singer, her sure sense of swing, impeccable time and keen storytelling ability has made her a favorite of A-List players. After hearing her at The Improv, Thad Jones was so impressed with her talent that he presented Jane with The Thad Jones/Mel Lewis Quintet at the club. Besides its illustrious leaders, the all-star band featured Roland Hanna, Jon Faddis and George Mraz. She also appeared in Joe Papp’s N.Y. Shakespeare Festival Summer Jazz Theatre with Woody Shaw, Harold Vic and Freddie Waites.
Jane Stuart knows what she wants and is crystal clear on putting it forth. Her song selections for Don't Look Back include rarely heard gems, Cole Porter's Experiment, as well as Johnny Mandel’s title cut, her striking ballad version of Lennon & McCartney's I'll Follow the Sun and her own composition, Let It Come To You, which nests flawlessly into this sterling set. She is joined on this outing by some of her favorite players that graced her last recording: pianist and co-producer Rave Tesar, bassists Sue Williams and Kermit Driscoll, saxophonist Frank Elmo and drummer/husband Rick De Kovessey, in addition to percussionist Emedin Rivera, guitarist Dave Stryker, and long-time friend Dick Oatts, who played on 3 tunes and also arranged Experiment. Continuing their ongoing collaboration, she & Rave Tesar partnered on most of the other arrangements.
The camaraderie of the ensemble shines through brilliantly on Don't Look Back. The affection these artists have toward one another transcends the date; one feels it was there well before Jane's last recording, and will last well beyond Don't Look Back. Indeed, Jane Stuart has quite a bit to look forward to.