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Jennifer Lee: Quiet Joy

Edward Blanco By

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The field of female jazz vocalists continues to swell with a plethora of new material overflowing the market as productions continue to be released daily. Against this backdrop lies a select number of extraordinarily superb recordings, such as Jennifer Lee's Quiet Joy which, clearly belong in the top echelon of today's jazz vocals.

To emphasize the point that Lee is no ordinary vocalist, the San Francisco Bay Area resident not only provides—as Lee Hildenbrand of the San Francisco Bay Guardian states, "... an inviting alto tone, with little trace of vibrato..."—vocals, she also performs on 7-string guitar and piano, demonstrating her reach as a multi-talented artist.

Separating Quiet Joy from the rest of the pack is Lee's creative selection of music and a stellar cast of supporting musicians. Lee blends an interesting program of standards, originals and Brazilian classics that embraces the definition of both a straight-ahead and Brazilian styles in one delicious package. Accompanied here by a host of Bay Area and San Diego-based jazz musicians, Lee enlists the help of the Sprague brothers—guitarist Peter Sprague and saxophonist-harmonica player Tripp Sprague—as well as bassists Bob Magnusson and Buca Necak, pianist David Udolf, percussionist Raul Ramirez and drummer Duncan Moore. Cellist Carter Dewberry appears on "Menina da Lua."

The handful of straight standards leads off with Frank Loesser's "I Hear Music," featuring Sprague's fine guitar work as Lee's sparkling vocals includes a slice of scatting. Lee plays guitar on "I Don't Want To Fall" and turns to piano on Johnny Burke's familiar classic "Pennies From Heaven" and ballad medley of "On A Clear Day/Never Never Land," where she reveals a softer side of herself. The title track is an original composition which also ushers in the recording's Brazilian flavor, providing the first of many collaborations where Lee performs on guitar along side Sprague.

The taste of Brazil continues on "Menina da Lua," where cellist Dewberry lends a classical touch to this beautiful ballad, voiced by Lee with a bit of soul. One of the standout tunes is Roberto Menescal's "O Barquinho," a gentle samba with a terrific arrangement, showcasing the Sprague brothers with Tripp on harmonica and Lee providing exquisite vocals in both English and Portuguese. More Brazilian color follows with the Da Silva/John Hendricks piece "O Pato," the percussive "Menininha do Portao" and the medley of "Amor Certinho/S' Wonderful," featuring Tripp Sprague sharing center stage with a soothing tenor solo.

Truly a Quiet Joy, Jennifer Lee employs her inviting vocal style and talents to craft a special recording of wonderful standards and Brazilian sambas in an album of light and pleasurable jazz that warrants repeated spins.

Track Listing: I hear Music; Quiet Joy; Menina da Lua; O Barquinho; Music Of Your Soul; You Knew; O Pato; Menininha do Portao; Baby Mine; I Don't Want To Fall; Amor Certinho/S' Wonderful; Pennies From Heaven; On A Clear Day/Never Never Land.

Personnel: Jennifer Lee: vocals, guitar (2-4, 7-11), piano (6, 12, 13); Peter Sprague: guitar (1-6, 10-13); David Udolf: Piano (1, 5, 7, 8); Bob Magnusson: bass (2, 3, 6, 9, 10, 13); Buca Necak: bass (1, 4, 5, 7, 8, 11, 12); Raul Ramirez: percussions (2, 4, 5, 7, 8, 11); Duncan Moore: drums (1, 3, 6, 7, 9, 10, 12, 13); Tripp Sprague: saxophone(6, 11), harmonica (4, 9); Carter Dewberry: cello (3).

Title: Quiet Joy | Year Released: 2009 | Record Label: SBE Records

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