One of the most compelling and ambitious jazz vocal albums of the year is In Her Words,
a new recording by vocalists Lucy Yeghiazaryan and Vanisha Gould. Like a number of jazz albums this year, this one joyfully steers clear of the American songbook—a dusty and lazy resource for true jazz singers of 2021.
Six of the 12 songs are by Gould and one is by Lucy (who arranged five). The remaining five songs are by other composers, including Nobody's Heart (Belongs to Me)
by Rodgers and Hart; Gone Again
by Curley Hamner, Curtis Lewis and Gladys Hampton, wife of Lionel Hampton; My Man
by Billie Holiday and Maurice Yvain; Patty McGovern's Love Isn't Everything;
and Moments Like This
by Burton Lane and Frank Loesser.
As you'll hear, the five mentioned above are beautiful boutique standards. Yes, My Man
and Nobody's Heart
are fairly well known, but they're good choices just the same and splendidly executed. There are hundreds of great songs by terrific composers that are simply overlooked by singers today who seem content to sing the same stuff over and over again.
Of the 12 songs, here's who's singing
- The Game: Lucy Yeghiazaryan
- Gypsy Feet: Vanisha Gould
- Nobody's Heart (Belongs to Me): Lucy Yeghiazaryan
- Hey Baby: Lucy Yeghiazaryan with Richard Cortez
- Look This Way: Vanisha Gould
- Gone Again: Lucy Yeghiazaryan
- Trapped in This Room: Vanisha Gould
- My Man: Lucy Yeghiazaryan
- Interlude: Lucy Yeghiazaryan
- Love Isn't Everything: Lucy Yeghiazaryan
- Cute Boy: Vanisha Gould
- Moments Like This: Lucy Yeghiazaryan
I interviewed Lucy back in April. As this new album demonstrates, she continues to make increasingly sophisticated choices. Lucy's and Gould's talent and determination to break new ground are rewarding and commendable, and the knowing sound of their clean vocal styles with roots in the 1950s is simultaneously new and familiar.
The album's instrumental backdrop is quite a magic trick. Joining Lucy and Gould are guitarist Eric Zolan, bassist Dan Pappalrdo, cellist Kate Victor, and violinist Ludovica Burtone. A trick because it sounds like a much fuller ensemble. The arrangements by Lucy, Chris McCarthy and Dan Pappalardo aren't traditional and offer just enough of a frame to be a minimalist, luxe accompaniment. As for the album's theme—"an unabashedly intimate recording that offers a glimpse into the private lives of women told from their unique perspectives"—it's a nifty and revealing concept.
The jazz vocal must move beyond Broadway of the 1930s if it is to remain interesting and survive. I'm guessing Lucy came across Nancy Overton singing Nobody's Heart
with Bob Brookmeyer in 1954 and Dinah Washington's He's Gone Again
in 1962. Gratefully, more female vocalists are breaking with the songbook tradition, whether they take on folk-rock songs of the 1960s, French pop, country catalogs or roll up their sleeves and collaborate with others on powerful new originals. Add Lucy and Gould to the list. These songs come alive with hip elegance and depth. Don't miss out on this one.
The album project was generously funded by a grant by the New York Foundation Arts 2020 Women’s Fund.
JazzWax clips: Here's The Game