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P>Creative improvised music remains a pursuit that largely doesn’t pay. It’s a reality that all musicians in the idiom must face and the necessity of a day job goes with the territory. In vocalist T.J. Graham’s case it’s college professor for financial sustenance and jazz improviser for creative release. Her debut on CIMP suggests significant facility in the latter role coupled with an unadorned honesty that suffuses her inflection and delivery. Teaming in a simpatico partnership with guitarist Rory Stuart she also evidences a courageous willingness to put her talents up to the aural microscope of scrutiny that characterizes the CIMP approach to recorded sound. Fortunately the particulars of both her voice and Stuart’s lightly amplified strings stand up to the challenge of the denuded surroundings.
The pair succeeds through a combination of close listening and careful planning. Ample rehearsals and a hand-picked songbook of standards both familiar and obscure translate into a relaxed atmosphere in front of the microphones Add to this the relative brevity of the chosen piece and most of the chaff is removed, leaving concise sketches that float in space like gilded tone poems. Stuart’s lilting chords support Graham’s pillow-soft verses on tracks like “Thanks for the Memories” and “Secret Love.” Other tunes like “Stompin’ at the Savoy,” suggest the duo’s more playful side as Stuart’s bouncing strums bookend Graham’s sassy oration of the classic swing anthem. Tempering these successes are moments where the singer dips perhaps too heavily into a romantic side of things and errs on the side of cloying sentimentality. But even these foibles are the province of preference and her consistency over the session’s lengthy duration is difficult to slight.
Vocal projects remain a rarity at CIMP- a label too often pigeonholed for its practices and preferences as documentation vehicle for free jazz. The reality is that producer Bob Rusch’s interests range far and wide. This date is proof positive of both his eclectic tastes and knack for finding talent worthy of recognition in all regions of improvised music. If this disc finds it’s way into the right hands Graham’s gig in academia may become moot.
CIMP discs are available directly through North Country Distributors: http://www.cadencebuilding.com
Track Listing: Ooh, Baby Baby/ O Barquinho/ I Love You for Sentimental Reasons/ What a Little Moonlight Can Do/ Thanks for the Memories/ Stompin
Personnel: T.J. Graham- vocals; Rory Stuart- guitar. Recorded: July 23 &24, 2001, Rossie, NY.