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Articles by Roger Crane

BOOK REVIEWS

The Great Jazz and Pop Vocal Albums

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The Great Jazz and Pop Vocal Albums Will Friedwald 432 pages ISBN: 0307379078 Pantheon 2017 The Great Jazz and Pop Vocal Albums is unique and Will Friedwald, who has extensive knowledge of and affection for singers and songs, has mined an area all his own. Sure, there are books about singers--jazz and pop--and reviews of their albums. Many of them are excellent, but I know of none that select 57 “great" albums and ...

BUILDING A JAZZ LIBRARY

Jazz With Strings

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Please note the title of this collection. It does not include symphony orchestras playing jazz compositions. Nor does it feature what is known as “third stream" music, which is the combination of jazz and classical elements for what is hoped to be a unified whole. No, just like the title says, this collection includes jazz musicians performing jazz with string sections. Jazz-with-strings is where the passion of jazz meets the power of an orchestra. This musical genre ...

CD/LP/TRACK REVIEW

Roberta Gambarini: Easy to Love

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With all due caution about overstatement, let me say that I don't know of a better pure jazz vocalist than Roberta Gambarini. She shows us all that the art of jazz singing is alive and well. During the past few years she has become almost a cult figure, thrilling live international audiences, becoming the subject of enthusiastic discussions on various internet jazz chat forums, and being hailed by numerous insiders as perhaps today's finest young jazz singer. Gambarini is now ...

CD/LP/TRACK REVIEW

Merle Haggard: Unforgettable

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Merle Haggard is, as the great Duke Ellington used to say, “beyond category." Like the best, he is a genre-defying artist. There is a strong influence of both jazz and blues in Haggard's work, though it's usually labeled as country and western. For example, he phrases like a jazz singer and he features horns in his exceptional band, The Strangers--and, unlike almost all other country singers, he actually gives the band a chorus. Perhaps most importantly, he and the band ...

CATCHING UP WITH

Chatting With Jackie Ryan

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Jackie Ryan is a San Francisco-based vocalist with three excellent CDs available. The most recent two are on Open Art records, the latest is titled This Heart of Mine.All About Jazz: Congratulations on your latest CD, This Heart of Mine. It is an exceptional vocal album and certainly one of the best in the past few years.Jackie Ryan Thank you so much, Roger. It was so fun to do... a labor of love--all the way through ...

LIVE REVIEWS

Tierney Sutton At Monteleone's

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As Tom Monteleone seated us in his attractive San Fernando club, pianist Dave Mackay and bassist Kenny Wilde were doing some lovely things with I Can’t Get Started. Dave’s chords, in contrast to the extroverted masses that most pianists use, turn in and muse. No pianist gets a better sound out of the instrument. Kenny, who has played with Dave for many years, gave him magisterial support on this Vernon Duke evergreen. A quick pan around any room in which ...

CD/LP/TRACK REVIEW

Jackie Ryan: This Heart of Mine

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You simply cannot sing a song any better than Jackie Ryan does. And you cannot make a better jazz vocal CD than this one. It is perfect. If that sounds too reverent, let me change the praise to “perfectly wonderful.” Each of the elements is truly wonderful: the choice of songs, the arrangements, accompanying musicians, even the ordering of the songs. And, most importantly, of course, Jackie Ryan! She is a smart, sophisticated vocalist for grown ups and this is ...

CD/LP/TRACK REVIEW

Armonica: From Me to You

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The word “armonica” has two meanings, both relating to music. An armonica is a glass harmonica (which, interestingly, was invented by Benjamin Franklin) and it is also the Italian word for “harmony.” So Armonica, the Portland-based singer, has the perfect name to accompany her marvelous singing. By the way, this is not a name that she chose to enhance her musical career. Her parents so named her.

Armonica opens her stellar debut CD with a bouncy reading of Peggy Lee’s ...

CD/LP/TRACK REVIEW

Hanna Richardson and Phil Flanigan: Something to Remember You By

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Vocalist Hanna Richardson will most likely be a new name to you. But hopefully not for long.

She has a natural, relaxed voice and was born to sing. Her warm timbre and uncomplicated phrasing are notable for their ease and expressiveness. You understand every word she sings-- and, given her selections on this CD, the lyrics deserve to be heard. Richardson’s rich alto has an autumnal quality, perhaps the aural equivalent of alpenglow. And the lady can swing.

In fact, ...

CD/LP/TRACK REVIEW

Sunna Gunnlaugs: Fagra Verold

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An Icelandic woman who leads her own group is not the most common thing in jazz, but pianist Sunna Gunnlaugs just may be the best jazz pianist you’ve never heard. As a child she played polkas and Beatles tunes on the organ in her homeland, but an encounter with an LP by pianist Bill Evans was, as she states, “the key that unlocked her creative spirit.” Although born in Iceland, she came to the United States to study music in ...