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Female Vocals 2017 II – Cheryl Fisher, Natalia M. King, Beata Pater, Ellen Andersson, Cecilia Persson

C. Michael Bailey By

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The ladies just keep on coming...

Cheryl Fisher
Quietly There
OA2 Records
2016

Vocalist Cheryl Fisher was once called, "Canada's best-kept secret." After five well-received recordings, Fisher weighs in with her sixth release, Quietly There on the Origin Arts AO2 imprint, using what could be called "the Origin Arts House Band," including guitarist John Stowell, bassist Jeff Johnson, and drummer John Bishop. Now she may be the poorest kept secret in the mainland. The result of this cat getting out of the bag is a generous, 12-selection recording that is both smart and well programmed. Fisher selected less-trodden standards for her recital and it pays off with a fresh explosion of the Great American Song Book not typically heard. The arranging duties were split between pianist John Toomey Trio and saxophonist Eric Allison. Both musicians have a similar artistic vision that encompasses gentle rhythms supplemented with densely positioned instrumentation. Johnny Mandel's "Quietly There" and a pair of Cy Coleman pieces ("It Amazes Me" and "I'm In Love Again") show off Fisher's beautifully well-balanced voice. Everything gels on "You Go to My Head" into a classic jazz vocal performance. Fisher spars with Allison's alto saxophone and Toomey's percussive piano, besting them with her sexy and humid delivery. This is a very satisfying release covering a lot of rarely heard ground.

Natalia M. King
Bluezzin T'il Dawn
Challenge Record
2016

Brooklyn-native Natalia M. King is a voice. Not has one. Is one. After an expatriation to Paris and three previous recordings, King stops everything and disappears, for seven years, only to reemerge at home with a neo-debut recording, Bluezzin' T'il Dawn. While she is neither Odetta, nor Bessie Smith, King possesses a vocal presence as powerful. King's approach to arrangement and instrumentation can be heard as an extrapolation of that Cassandra Wilson did with standards in the 1990s. Where King differs from Wilson is that her material is primarily original compositions and her genre-mixing inclinations are folded into that composition. While probably totally beside the point, asking "what is this music" might be warranted. King deftly and in a new way conjures a sound from a mixture of blues, jazz, soul, gospel, R&B, and hip hop, as well as, rock music. "Traces in the Sand" is ultimately big band fun initiated by the slippery clarinet of Xavier SIBRE. Kings belts the song, singing with conviction and confidence. "Baby Brand New" contains a brilliant interpolation of Paul Desmond's "Take Five." Fed Neil's "Little Bit of Rain" mashes up 150 years of music in just over three minutes. Louis Armstrong, Ornette Coleman, John Zorn, and Kurt Elling are all here, mingling with Odetta and Bessie Smith. This is music for the ages.

Beata Pater
Fire Dance
B&B Records
2017

I have only been called out (by name) by another music writer once. But that once was over my review of Beata Pater's Red (B&B Records, 2013), where my fellow scribe claimed I had reduced the artist's performance to, ..."a gimmick with a pulse." That said, Pater releases Fire Dance into her own vacuum. Pater specializes in, for lack of a better term, what can be called "wordless vocals." This is not scat and it is not vocalese. It is Pater using her voice as an equal ensemble member. She melds well with soprano saxophonist Sam Newsome, tenor saxophonist Anton Schwartz and baritone saxophonist Aaron Lington. This is very contemporary fare that is certainly enjoyable. All the eleven pieces are composed by Romanian born, California-based Alex Danson, bearing a distinctly crisp and precise contemporary character sure to please any Pater fan.

Ellen Andersson Quartet
I'll Be Seeing You
Prophone
2016

It's called "The Ellen Andersson Quartet" for a reason. She places her voice on equal footing with her guitar trio, led by Anton Forsberg, with bassist Hannes Jonsson and drummer Sebastian Brydniak. The four musicians make a slightly dark-roasted brand of jazz that is rich with a very clean finish. Andersson's singing is the epitome of coquettishness, if that quarter word represents a flirtatious, playful sexual attraction. To do this tastefully is difficult, but not too difficult for leader Andersson who purrs her way through this satisfying nine-song recital of standards. She establishes her equally footing with her fine band out of the chute with the Gershwin's "S'Wonderful" on which she scats faster than I have heard anyone do in some time. Bassist Jonnsson turns in a cogent and well-considered solo followed by Forsberg, who trades eights with Brydniak before the prim coda. "You've Changed" features the very mellow tone of trumpeter Peter Asplund. Andersson is buoyed by Brydniak's shimmering cymbal work. Charlie Parker's "Au Privave" is a real treat with Andersson vocalizing with Asplund's muted horn through several time changes. Andersson scats her way through several choruses, never repeating herself. Andersson turns up the heat with a humid reading of "I'll Be Seeing You" which makes a provocative diptych with Charlie Chaplin's "Smile." Andersson hits with a combination of talent and elan that is likely to make quite the impressing.

Cecilia Persson
Cecilia Persson & the Norrbotten Big Band
Prophone
2016

I really do know no shame. Cecilia Persson is not a jazz singer. She is a big band composer and conductor orchestrating some of the most exciting big band charts on this new century. Persson was the Composer in Residence with the Norrbotten Big Band in 2014 when these six compositions were recorded. Persson's charts are complex and demanding, expressing a dry sense-of-humor and encyclopedic knowledge of the big band history and repertoire. This is music full of surprises and delights. "Lulu" and "Furioso" are highlights, composed with very different sonic neighborhoods in mind. The former is in-you-face iconoclastic while the latter is a fast-paced cacophony broken up with passages of quiet thoughtfulness. I would compare Persson with {Carla Bley}}, whose mantle she might assume one day. This is exciting and thought-provoking music.

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