Joanna Pascale: Joanna Pascale: When Lights are Low

Victor L. Schermer By

Sign in to view read count
Joanna Pascale: Joanna Pascale: When Lights are Low
Joanna Pascale
When Lights are Low

The quintessential instrument of jazz, perhaps all of music, is the female voice. While jazz has many personae and "voices" (I think of John Coltrane's "preacher" inflections, Miles Davis' contemplative, moody, and earthy "speaking through the horn," Bill Evans' dreamy, complex, ethereal "muse," etc.), the female voice most fully embodies the dialectic of blues and ecstasy, the resiliency, and the inner spiritual core of the jazz idiom and syntax. Jazz is the "speech" of the African American "Mother" exemplified in the drama, "Raisin in the Sun," and the female lover, both of whom contain the victory and defeat, the hope and the pain of those to whom they give life and love, i.e. all of us. That is why no one represents the soul of jazz more than the woman who, I think literally, gave her life to this art form: Billie Holiday.

Joanna Pascale's debut CD, When Lights are Low, is a searching exploration of the female voice, its many facets and subtleties, within the context of rendering ballad standards in a "classic," timeless way. There are no "frills," cliches, or "tricks of the trade" in this album, nothing clever or stylish about it. It is simply an attempt to manifest the "pure clear word" of these songs as transparently as possible. The accompaniment follows suit. Terell Stafford's solo on "Easy Living" states the case. It is a lyrical improvisation that makes no attempt to be "modern" and flashy- rather, it echoes the evolution of jazz trumpet playing from Armstrong through Beiderbecke to Baker as a unified whole rather than a series of signature styles. This CD is entirely a statement about classic jazz as having one core, one essence. And Pascale is up to that challenge.

Joanna achieves this timeless element by making the most of its opposite: the moment. If you listen carefully- and this album deserves a thoughtful hearing- you will hear the way in which each note, each inflection, each bar gets careful, special, and immediate attention from the singer, as she shifts effortlessly from lyricism to staccato punctuation to impassioned vibrato to lingering on a note, to whatever it is in the voice that gives the musical moment and the words a meaning. You end up experiencing many of the marvelous things that the female voice can do, not so much the extremes of dynamics and high and low notes that you get with Sarah Vaughan and Diane Schuur, but the subtlty, simplicity, emotional nuances, and resilience of phrasing that you find in Holiday, Cleo Lane, and - on another level - Irene Kral and Chris Connor.

The instrumental accompaniment of this album artfully strives for the same kind of balance that Joanna achieves vocally. She gives each musician ample time to solo, and Farid Barron's piano is especially graceful, while the rest also perform professionally and artfully as they provide a suitable backdrop to the singing. Byron Landham's drumming, as always, posesses his gentle, well-modulated, yet strong, swinging "feel" that is the "deus ex machina" ("god in the machine") behind the whole ensemble effect.

All in all, this debut album shows that Joanna Pascale is a new, young talent to be reckoned with. It will be intriguing to see and hear what her future holds in store.

Track listing: When Lights are Low, Call Me Irresponsible, I Just Found Out About Love, Stardust, Easy Living, In the Still of the Night, Give Me the Simple Life, You Go to My Head, Girl Talk, Too Marvelous For Words, Fools Rush In, Come Rain or Come Shine

Personnel: Terell Stafford (trumpet), Farid Baron & Gary Moran (piano), Madison Rast (bass), Byron Landham (drums), and Craig Ebner (guitar)

Track Listing

When Lights are Low; Call Me Irresponsible; I Just Found Out About Love; Stardust Easy Living In the Still of the Night Give Me the Simple Life You Go to My Head Girl Talk Too Marvelous For Words Fools Rush In Come Rain or Come Shine


Terell Stafford (trumpet), Farid Baron & Gary Moran (piano), Madison Rast (bass), Byron Landham (drums), and Craig Ebner (guitar)

Album information

Title: Joanna Pascale: When Lights are Low | Year Released: 2004 | Record Label: CAP

Post a comment about this album


Shop Amazon


Rich Pellegrin
Ain't No Storm
Caleb Wheeler Curtis
Odd Wisdom
Diego Pinera
Secret Suite
Nick Lombardelli
The One And The Other
Lara Solnicki
Flatbosc & Cautery
Frank Gratkowski, Achim Kaufmann, Wilbert de...
Shuffling Ivories
Roberto Magris


All About Jazz needs your support

All About Jazz & Jazz Near You were built to promote jazz music: both recorded albums and live events. We rely primarily on venues, festivals and musicians to promote their events through our platform. With club closures, limited reopenings and an uncertain future, we've pivoted our platform to collect, promote and broadcast livestream concerts to support our jazz musician friends. This is a significant but neccesary step that will help musicians and venues now, and in the future. You can help offset the cost of this essential undertaking by making a donation today. In return, we'll deliver an ad-free experience (which includes hiding the sticky footer ad). Thank you!

Get more of a good thing

Our weekly newsletter highlights our top stories and includes your local jazz events calendar.