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C. Michael Bailey's Best Releases of 2019

C. Michael Bailey By

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The number of critics writing for All About Jazz is such that there is little content overlap from one scrib to the next. This provides the reader a rich and compelling collection of opinion from which to derive guidance regarding a broad variety of music. Also contributing to All About Jazz as a resource are the varied and disparate backgrounds of the writers, each bringing something a little different from the other to the discussion. Coupled with a year plentiful with fine releases, 2019 proves to be generous in both music and opinion. Drink deeply.

Ada Bird Wolfe
Birdie

Where to start with Ada Bird Wolfe? This present Birdie is a "debut" recording? They should all be like this, emerging fully formed and presented as a final product. No seeking one's "own" voice or bumbling through inferior material. Wolfe has had a love for music her whole life, even when in school and after, working in business, and then devoting herself fulltime to writing. Life took Wolfe from the East to the West Coast where she landed and in 2010 began devoting herself to singing and music. [ continue ]

Vanessa Rubin
The Dream is You: Vanessa Rubin sings Tadd Dameron

Finally, a fitting tribute to the music of Tadd Dameron, with Vanessa Rubin's vocal adaptation of Dameron's work as an added plus. The Cleveland native has distinguished herself as an impressive song stylist with a Midas touch for challenging material. Rubin has eight previous recordings. Interestingly, only Girl Talk (Telarc Records, 2001) has been reviewed on All About Jazz. The Dream Is You: Vanessa Rubin Sings Tadd Dameron offers a grand opportunity to remedy this situation. [ continue ]

Claudia Vorbach
Is There a Time?

Claudia Vorbach follows up Come Down Easy (Phoneector, 2016) with these 14 smart original compositions infused with the swagger of a confident composer/singer. At first blush, Vorbach sounds like a relaxed Norah Jones, playfully whimsical and vocally daring. Vorbach sings with an assured Van Morrison-fashioned slur that is both rakish and sensual. "Princess With A Cross To Bear" is a dead ringer for "Moondance," swinging hard with a certain mainland European style. [ continue ]

Paul Jost
Simple Life

I believe there are precious few exceptional male jazz vocalists. There. I said it. Female vocalists? They are legion. But once one has pruned away the vanity projects, the Sinatra wannabes, and the most recent unforgivable cover of "My Funny Valentine," there remain few. Paul Jost is one of those few. The singer's Breaking Through (Dot Time, 2014) revealed a fearless, scat-singing spirit unafraid of not only shaking up the jazz canon but adding to it. The spirit continues on Simple Life. [ continue ]

Claudia Villela
Encantada Live

I was expecting another breezy and humid bossa nova recording, as a vocalist and composer Claudia Villela is a native of Rio De Janeiro and known for her interpretations of the local fare. But Encantada Live is far more Caribbean-flavored, and far more improvised and genre-splitting than bossa nova. Leading a crack septet, Villela checks her inhibitions at the door, producing an intoxicating set of nine pieces, some original and some not, performed in a variety of formats. [ continue ]

Catherine Russell
Alone Together

Catherine Russell's bona fides are many and may best be expressed in her journey to today. Born in Panama to musical parents (her mother being Carline Ray), her family emigrated to New Orleans, then Chicago and then New York City, following the path of jazz music over the last century. Her recordings, in particular her recent and enthusiastically received Bring It Back (Harmonia Mundi Jazz Village Music, 2014), show a broad interest in both the Great American Songbook and early jazz standards. [ continue ]

Lefty Frizzell
An Article From Life -The Complete Recordings

Obsession is a great motivator and perhaps the greatest form of appreciation. However, that may be no more than making a virtue out of necessity. The German label, Bear Family Records has made a career of being obsessed in providing a complete accounting of American Music. Previous to this 20-CD box set, An Article From Life -The Complete Recordings was the essential At The Louisiana Hayride Tonight (2018). That collection was a great snapshot of the development of American Music. [ continue ]

Víkingur Ólafsson
J.S. Bach Works & Reworks

Icelandic pianist Víkingur Ólafsson has found himself soaked to the skin in accolades in 2019. It all began auspiciously enough with the pianist with Ólafsson beginning piano early, taught by his mother, a music teacher. Ólafsson eventually attended and matriculated from the Juilliard School in New York, with a Bachelor's and Master's degrees directed by Jerome Lowenthal and Robert McDonald. The pianist went on to blaze and international trial with concerts and recitals. [ continue ]

Jay Gordon's Blues Venom
Slide Rules

The first slide guitar recording (and first instrumental blues recording) was made by Sylvester Weaver for Okeh Records (No. 8109) in 1923, the A-side being "Guitar Blues" and the B-side "Guitar Rag." Since that time many practitioners have distinguished themselves as exceptional. Early players included Ur-bluesmen Charlie Patton, Son House and Robert Johnson. Middle players included Robert Nighthawk, Earl Hooker, Elmore James and Muddy Waters. [ continue ]

St. Jacobs Kammarkör, Rebaroque, Gary Graden
G.F. Handel -Messiah

A pleasant surprise from Sweden. Rebaroque, formerly the Stockholm Baroque Orchestra and St. Jacobs Kammarkörunder, under the leadership of Gary Graden, produce a thoroughly scrubbed, organic Messiah brimming with extroversion and powerful mirth. There are actually two performance narratives occurring here. One is the overarching history of the oratorio's development and early performances and the second, closer to home, is the history of performance in Sweden. [ continue ]

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