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Fresh Voices: Gretje Angell, Deb Bowman, Emma Frank, and Kelley Suttenfield


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The first musical instrument was the human voice and there always seems to be emerging jazz singers presenting their spin on the practice. Here are four of the more recent.

Gretje Angell
In Any Key

Akron, Ohio's Gretje Angell is a third generation jazz musician and she dedicates this, her first album, to her late father, drummer Tommy "The Hat" Voorhees. Her voice shows a relaxed lilt reminiscent of Peggy Lee as she demonstrates her mastery of various jazz styles. She comes off intimate on the bossa novas "One Note Samba" and "Berimbau," sounds lazily sensual on "Tea For Two" and scats breezily on "I'm Old Fashioned." Her main accompanist throughout the CD is guitarist Dori Amarillo who gives her flexible and swinging support. Most of the songs have simple settings except for "Deep In A Dream" where Michael Hunter's trumpet and a lush string orchestra provide the backing for Angell's poignant and entrancing performance.

Deb Bowman
Fast Heart
Mama Bama

Like Angell, Deb Bowman dedicates her CD to a deceased relative. In her case it was her sister Patti who died in 2009 from ovarian cancer. This set has a range of emotions, both sad and joyous, with the singer writing several of the songs herself. "Willow In The Wind" is a somber ballad and "Fast Heart" is a pulsing art song where she sings powerfully against swarming strings. Bowman has a background in gospel music that manifests itself in the spiritual pop-funk of "Where Can We Go" and the full-blown gospel passion of "Shelter Me From The Storm" where she unleashes the full power of her voice.

When singing others' songs here, Bowman shows her vocal versatility. She does Thelonious Monk's "Pannonica" as a lively samba, struts through "Moody's Mood For Love" in a tiny Blossom Dearie-like voice and wails thunderously on "Georgia On My Mind" over Greg Lewis' intense organ.

Emma Frank
Emma Frank
Justin-Time Records

Emma Frank operates in a nebulous realm that encompasses jazz, rock and folk. Her voice sounds natural and earnest as she works in close musical partnership with pianist Aaron Parks. Most of her songs have a wispy, bruised feel given body by the breathy melodicism of Frank's voice. Her singing makes these little stories of hurt and disappointment into poetry.

There are subtle variations in the overall melancholic mood. Frank sings with a slight country inflection on "Either Way," a song from the band Wilco. "See You" enlivens things with a rock backbeat and "Lilac"'s bouncy folk rhythm leads to Frank bending her voice like Beth Orton or Joni Mitchell and Parks taking an extended piano solo. The most affecting song of the set may be the closing "Before You Go Away" with Frank singing unadorned but forceful before a gauzy curtain of guitar and synthesizer created by Pedro Barquinha.

Kelley Suttenfield
When We Were Young: Kelley Suttenfield Sings Neil Young
Self Produced

Kelley Suttenfield investigates the vast repertoire of the eclectic and durable singer-songwriter Neil Young on this album. She concentrates on the more genteel folk-country side of Young's songbook, using her slightly husky but lyrical voice to give a more upscale sheen to familiar tunes like "Old Man," "Only Love Can Break Your Heart" and "Heart Of Gold."

There is a nice variety to the arranging. "Love Is A Rose" gets a cocky country-rock beat, the drug song "The Needle and the Damage Done" is outfitted with slow, crawling slide guitar and "Flying on the Ground," from Young's time in the band Buffalo Springfield, is done with a sprightly Latin shuffle beat. Suttenfield sings these songs with subtle but affecting emotion. Her most intense moment comes on Young's murder ballad, "Down By The River." She purrs the lyrics hypnotically over a forbidding swirl of guitar, piano and strings, a big difference from the crunching electric mayhem of Young's version, but a compelling one.

Tracks and Personnel

In Any Key

Tracks: (Our) Love Is Here to Stay; I'm Old Fashioned; Fever; Deep In A Dream; Berimbau; Do Nothing Till You Hear From Me; One Note Samba; Tea For Two; Them There Eyes.

Personnel: Gretje Angell: vocals; Dori Amarillo: guitar; Kevin Axt: bass; Chuck Berghofer: bass (4); Gabe Davis: bass (5,6); Steve Hass: drums; Kevin Winard: percussion; Quinn Johnson: keyboards; Michael Hunter: trumpet (4); Budapest Scoring: Orchestra (4).

Fast Heart

Tracks: Willow In The Wind; Pannonica; Butterfly; Where Can We Go; La Vie En Rose; Moody's Mood For Love; Georgia On My Mind; Crazy He Calls Me; Fast Heart; Shelter Me From The Storm.

Personnel: Deb Bowman: vocal; Eric Lewis "ELEW": piano, Rhodes; Steven Wolf: percussion; Greg Lewis: Hammond B3 organ; Matthew Garrison: bass; Kenyatta Beasley: trumpet; Marla Feeney: violin, viola; Mama Bama, Elena Dollinger, Lisa Ramey, JW Inspirational Voices of Harlem: backing vocals.

Come Back

Tracks: I Thought; Either Way; Two Hearts; Sometimes; Promises; Dream Team; See You; Lilac; Before You Go Away.

Personnel: Emma Frank: voice; Aaron Parks: piano, synths; Tommy Crane: drums; Zack Lober: bass; Franky Rousseau: guitars, synths; Simon Millerd: trumpet (6); Chieh-Fan: viola, violin (1,3); Pedro Barquinha: guitar, bass, percussion, synths (9).

When We Were Young: Kelley Suttenfield Sings Neil Young

Tracks: Harvest Moon; Heart of Gold; Only Love Can Break Your Heart; The Losing End (When You're On); Flying on the Ground; The Needle and the Damage Done; Love is a Rose; Down By The River; Fool for Your Love' Barefoot Floors; Old Man.

Personnel: Kelley Suttenfield: vocals; Tosh Sheridan: guitars, back-up vocals; Matthew Fries: piano, Fender Rhodes; Phil Palombi: double bass; Eric Halvorson: drums, percussion; The Memling Ensemble String Trio: (Derek Ratzenboeck: violin; Vincent Lionti: viola; David Calhoun: cello).


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