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Naama Gheber: If I Knew Then

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Naama Gheber: If I Knew Then
New York City-based vocalist Naama Gheber released her debut recording, Dearly Beloved (Cellar Music) in 2020, just before the global COVID-19 pandemic. With live entertainment brought to a halt, Gheber found herself with time on her hands and no way to promote her considerable talent in live performance. Israeli by birth, Gheber was an enfant terrible who ascended quickly professionally. After being trained at the Center for Jazz Studies in Tel Aviv, Gheber was accepted into the jazz program at New York City's The New School For Performing Arts, where she soon honed her craft and began performing throughout the city, accumulating valuable experience as well as critical attention. Just starting to reach professional escape velocity, Gheber recorded and released Dearly Beloved, and then the bottom fell out.

The debut recording generated positive attention, but that did not replace the singer promoting her wares in a live setting. Drawing from Cellar Group alumni, Gheber teamed up with pianist Ben Paterson, bassist Neal Miner, and drummer Evan Sherman early in 2022 to record seven compositions thoughtfully chosen to show off Gheber's freshly conservative ballad singing. Her choice of the traditional jazz piano trio allowed a sonic environment where she would not be competing with other melody instruments, a circumstance both fortunate and challenging, where Gheber had no other choice but to stand and deliver. And did she ever.

Gheber made another strategic decision to release five of the seven selections as singles monthly throughout the summer and fall with the full EP to be released in November. Reviews of these individually released songs are cited at the end of this article, leaving two songs: the title cut and "Dreaming of You" for consideration here. "If I Knew Then (What I Know Now)" was composed and published by Dick Jurgens and Eddy Howard in 1939, with their version charting briefly the same year. Bing Crosby went on to record the song on February 9, 1940, with John Scott Trotter and His Orchestra, placing the song into the canon of the Great American Songbook. Gheber displays a knack for arranging the piece, directing the trio, and its tone for the recording. Gheber's arranging proves dramatically sophisticated and Paterson manifests as empathetically aligned with the singer in providing refined and understated support and soloing.

"Dreaming of You" fits snuggly into Gheber's survey of ballad styles. Composed in 1934 by Jimmie Lunceford, the song would become a performance staple for Helen Merrill 20 years later. Here, the ballad is presented as a bass-voice duet between Miner and Gheber, one that sets a standard for swing in a confined space. The singer is in melodic command while Miner steers the harmony. Gheber sings with light shades of Anita O'Day coupled with Billie Holiday seasoned with a tincture of the corner bar from "Lush Life."

There is a place for this kind of jazz singing. It is like Brahms to Beethoven, a keeper of the flame necessary to inform new generations of how the music sounded at the beginning: simple, inventive, and stunning.

Single Selection Releases:
"Old Mother Hubbard"
"I'm A Fool To Want You"
"I'm A Fool To Want You"
"You're Driving Me Crazy"
"Dream Dancing"
"The Very Thought Of You"

Track Listing

If I Knew Then (What I Know Now); I'm A Fool To Want You; Old Mother Hubbard; Dream Dancing; The Very Thought Of You; Dream Of You; You're Driving Me Crazy.

Personnel

Naama Gheber: voice / vocals; Ben Paterson: piano; Neal Miner: bass, acoustic; Evan Sherman: drums.

Album information

Title: If I Knew Then | Year Released: 2022 | Record Label: Sassy's Back In Town


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