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Five Women (plus Two) – MJ Territo, Laura Campisi, Mari Nobre, Janet Lawson, Dominique Eade, Jocelyn Medina, Katie Thiroux

C. Michael Bailey By

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MJ Territo
Ladies Day
Jolly Molly Records
2017

Vocalist MJ Territo celebrates all things women on her ambitious and overdue Ladies Day. Territo noted the number of compositions that she loved were written by women. So, taking that fact and assembling an all-women's band, Territo creates the trifecta of celebration. The singer's muse moved her and her colleagues to build a repertoire of some 50 songs, 14 of which are presented on Ladies Day. What is recording proves to be is one of the most attractive standards sets imagined, because these standards (best known. "In Your Own Sweet Way") are not so standard. Territo, supported by the rhythm section of pianist Linda Pressgrave, bassist, Iris Ornig, and drummer Barbara Merjan, expertly guides this welcome romp through the less known. Andrea Brachfeld's flute shows up in a couple of places, including "I'm Shadowing You," and Virginia Mayhew slips her tenor saxophone into "Strange Fascination." This is a collection of finely composed songs expertly delivered in a thoughtful and compelling production. Well done!

Laura Campisi
Double Mirror
Self Produced
2017

Pushing the creative envelope is a sure way to both stir interest in a project and promote progression within an art form. Vocalist and jass raconteur Laura Campisi wastes exactly zero time doing both on Double Mirror. Whether the singer is stripping down things on her own compositions, like the wan "Chorus Angelorum" or her daring, if not heretical, "Love For Sale," Campisi refuses to leave things has he found them, a practice from which jazz (an all music) typically benefits. Regarding the Cole Porter classic, Campisi turns the 1930 show tune (The New Yorkers) into a hip hop loop fantasy. Campisi does a Meredith Monk on Miles Davis' "Nardis," sparing with a beautifully ill-behaved band, while flinging the tune into a creative singularity. On Gershwin's "I Loves You, Porgy," the singer tinkers with every aspect of the composition, revealing some impressive bones highlighted by Gianluca Renzi's electric bass. All music needs those who not merely think outside the box, but stomp it flat and, thus, taking an entirely different, and unexpected, path. Her is to the musical pioneers!

Mari Nobre's Jazz Band
Live and Alive: From Gershwin to Jobim...a Musical Journey
Chrome Records
2017

Everything about Mari Nobre is a little bigger than life. She has a reality television show with husband-bassist Leonardo Nobre and has recently been recovering from a public battle with cancer. The Italian singer is a specialist in both Brazilian and American jazz standards weaving her way through English, Portuguese, and Spanish lyrics with an enviable ease. On her recording, Live and Alive: From Gershwin to Jobim...a Musical Journey, Nobre gives equal credit to her fine and swinging band who make straight the highway through the Great American and Brazilian Songbooks. Recorded live at UCLA, Live and Alive proves to be a potent celebration of life. Nobre alternates song nationalities on this carefully scripted performance. The singer brings an understated, but definitely present, swagger to Benny Golson's "Whisper Not," while turning in a most perfect "Corcovado" in the original. Nobre further promotes the Leonard Cohen book, by including a swinging ans swaying version of "Dance Me to the End of Love."

The Janet Lawson Quintet
The Janet Lawson Quintet
BBE Records
2014

Vocalist Janet Lawson is a student and technician of jazz vocals in the same way that Betty Carter was. She sings with a confident flair that justifies even her most experimental of scat singing and vocal gymnastics. She proves to be one of the rare few vocalists warranted in showing off her considerable talent. Her band, credited with her on her self-titled recording is tight and precise, characteristics necessary for the bold and ambitious arrangements she employs on this recording. Lawson does not play around with her programming. Right out of the chute is a lengthy consideration of Carmen Moore and Sam Brown's "You Promised," introduced with a breathtaking virtuosic flute/voice flurry that readily signals that something dramatically different is coming. Add to this an excellent bass solo by Ratzo Harris and the recording becomes gravid with creative possibilities. These possibilities manifest further on a lively and inventive "Jitterbug Waltz" (which I never thought of a vocal piece, but here it is). "'Round Midnight" is treated with Xanax and honey, rendering a moody and nervous presentation of Monk's classic. Lawson and the band close the disc with four pieces from "The Miles Davis Session." "It Ain't Necessarily So," "I Thought About You," "It Never Entered My Mind," and "Joshua" comprise the most cohesive part or a very cohesive whole. This is an exceptional recording needing more attention.

Dominique Edad and Ran Blake
Town and Country
Sunnyside Records
2017

Pianist Ran Blake has become a go-to accompanist for jazz vocalists. He has made recordings with Jeanne Lee, Christine Correa, Sara Serpa, and. Presently, Dominique Eade. Town and Country is very much an American recording in the same ways that Jacqui Sutton's novel "Frontier Jazz" concept as manifested on her 2010 release Billie & Dolly (Toy Blue Typewriter Productions) and her superb 2012 release, Notes From The Frontier: A Musical Journey (Toy Blue Typewriter Productions) are and, share the same spirit as Laurie Antonioli's rustic New World soundscape on American Dream (Intrinsic Music, 2010), and Tierney Sutton's pastoral American Road (BMF, 2011). Eade and Blake do a bit of deconstruction on Dylan's "It's Alright Ma" and Mancini's "Moon River" (an inspired pairing if there ever were one). But it is the pair's treatment of "Give My Love to Rose," "Moonglow," and "Moonlight in Vermont" that really seal the deal. Bold and uncompromising.

Jocelyn Medina
Common Ground
Self Produced
2017

Jazz is a ubiquitous and promiscuous phenomenon. Since its event horizon some 100 years ago, jazz has insinuated itself into every corner of world culture. One tonal center fertile with both musical intellect and harmonic permission is that of East Africa and India. Beautifully free of western convention, the music of these regions manifests as seemingly unending streams of musical consciousness. Often completely improvised, these circuitous melodies meld into the timeless while being fixed in experience. These are the tactile and spiritual elements tapped by Jocelyn Medina on her third recording, Common Ground. Channeling a recent experience of cultural immersion in Mumbai, Medina composed nine humid and provocative vocal excursions permitting her pliant vehicles on which to apply her subtle voice and arrangement talents. She deftly combines electric guitar with table and bansuri flutes. Medina has no fear of experimentation with her voice as evidenced on the title piece, which also combines electric piano with tabula percussion. This music with a sensuous heartbeat, serious music of depth.

Katie Thiroux
Off Beat
Capri Records
2017

Vocalist/bassist Katie Thiroux's second recording, Off Beat follows her exceptional 2015 debut, Introducing Katie Thiroux (Basskat Records). It is a carefully crafted production that capitalizes on Thiroux's broad breadth of talent. Introducing... was a bright slap-in-the-face, something so fresh it popped. Off Beat is exactly that, if not even fresher. When talent like this has a sense of humor, there is no limit to the artistic expression. Thiroux steers her rhythm-mates, pianist Justin Kauflin and drummer Matt Witek with a light-hearted touch and a sassy wink of the eye. This is all illustrated in the title piece, opening the recording. A sideways, New Orleans cum bebop vamp that Thiroux delivers the goods with, both singing and bass strumming (not to mention the presence of Ken Peplowski and Roger Neumann providing reeds). Of note is the Thiroux original, "Slow Dance with Me," a bluesy stroll on which Kauflin gets his best {Gene Harris}}—Red Garland on. The singer closes with a solo romp (bass and voice, in this case) of "Willow Weep for Me" that is just far enough out there to make you reach for it.

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