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Halie Loren: Butterfly Soaring

R.J. DeLuke By

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Its hard to categorize Halie Loren—for those who feel the need to do so—a singer/songwriter who started performing at age 10 in her native state of Alaska and now, from her home in Oregon, tours jazz clubs and jazz events on a regular basis in different parts of the world and regales audiences with her light, supple and sensual voice.

She's unconcerned with categorization. Loren enjoys singing one of the great standards created before her time, that she listened to on records at home as a girl, on par with presenting her own thoughts and feelings through her original music. Both are presented in a personal style with twists and turns of phrase or melody. Her voice is joyful, but she can portray longing, introspection, discovery.

Loren, an artist through and through, enjoys getting lost in the world of writing. It's all part of the voyage that she has so much of ahead of her.

"The thing about songwriting that I love," she says, "is bringing something entirely new into the world. The blessing and the curse of it. Because there are times when it feels impossible to find the right way to communicate what it is I have churning inside my mind. But there's a feeling of ultimate victory when it's found."

Her new album, Butterfly Blue, is her eighth, including one live recording. They have continued to show over time her progression as an artist. The standards, like Horace Silver's "Peace"—which she gives a sweet new lyric—and "I've Got You Under My Skin," her take away from the usual version. Her vocal and creative abilities call attention in new ways. And there are also new tunes, like the bright "Yellow Bird" and "Butterfly" that move away from jazz, but can be felt just as strongly, musically and lyrically. One could envision Billie Holiday in a smoke-filled nightclub intoning Loren's "Danger of Loving You."

"It's a tension-release kind of exercise," Loren says of her writing. "I have a tendency to overthink a lot. For me, writing is this wonderful way to go all out. I overthink and I overthink and I overthink. It totally satisfies that part of my personality. Whereas in performance, I have to shed that. That's the counterbalance. I can't overthink. Because if i do, that's when you've lost. [laughs] That's what hangs you up as a performer. So it's interesting that I get to satisfy both elements of that artistic battle."

Loren doesn't really place writing in front of performance. It's part of the complete picture of who she is as an artist. She has performed for two-thirds of her life.

"I love so many parts about that experience. I love the spontaneity of it. I love connecting with an audience," she says, noting that as a girl she would be terrified in front of an audience at times. "But now that I've done it for so much of my life, it's like a conversation. The whole show. I love people. So being able to connect musically and just be myself on stage with people who are there to experience that, it's a very fun and beautiful thing. Every single performance is different. Both on the front of the way we do the songs, because with jazz there's that license to interpret things differently every time, which I love. That's one of my favorite things about jazz. And there's also the audience connection part. Every audience is different. Every venue is different. I love to experience the bounty of the human experience in a nutshell with these people I get to share with. The art of live performance is something I love. I love being able to be in my element for that concentrated period of time."

She adds, "I get really different things from both [performing and writing]. They are very different experiences. They're two sides of the same coin but they couldn't be farther apart as far as the way they take place in my life."

The new album is done with a small group including a longtime collaborator, pianist Matt Treder, and guitarist Daniel Gallo, who wrote a couple of the tunes. It was recorded in 2014 in portions, that were interrupted by touring, with most of the work done last fall. It was released in January, followed by a 10-day, 13-concert tour of Japan. She then came back and recorded "Yellow Bird" to add to the North American release. Loren has arrangements in her head when approaching the recording, but some are worked out at the session, going with what feels right.

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