P>Creative improvised music remains a pursuit that largely doesn’t pay. It’s a reality that all musicians in the idiom must face and the necessity of a day job goes with the territory. In vocalist T.J. Graham’s case it’s college professor for financial sustenance and jazz improviser for creative release. Her debut on CIMP suggests significant facility in the latter role coupled with an unadorned honesty that suffuses her inflection and delivery. Teaming in a simpatico partnership with guitarist Rory Stuart she also evidences a courageous willingness to put her talents up to the aural microscope of scrutiny that characterizes the CIMP approach to recorded sound. Fortunately the particulars of both her voice and Stuart’s lightly amplified strings stand up to the challenge of the denuded surroundings.
The pair succeeds through a combination of close listening and careful planning. Ample rehearsals and a hand-picked songbook of standards both familiar and obscure translate into a relaxed atmosphere in front of the microphones Add to this the relative brevity of the chosen piece and most of the chaff is removed, leaving concise sketches that float in space like gilded tone poems. Stuart’s lilting chords support Graham’s pillow-soft verses on tracks like “Thanks for the Memories” and “Secret Love.” Other tunes like “Stompin’ at the Savoy,” suggest the duo’s more playful side as Stuart’s bouncing strums bookend Graham’s sassy oration of the classic swing anthem. Tempering these successes are moments where the singer dips perhaps too heavily into a romantic side of things and errs on the side of cloying sentimentality. But even these foibles are the province of preference and her consistency over the session’s lengthy duration is difficult to slight.
Vocal projects remain a rarity at CIMP- a label too often pigeonholed for its practices and preferences as documentation vehicle for free jazz. The reality is that producer Bob Rusch’s interests range far and wide. This date is proof positive of both his eclectic tastes and knack for finding talent worthy of recognition in all regions of improvised music. If this disc finds it’s way into the right hands Graham’s gig in academia may become moot.
CIMP discs are available directly through North Country Distributors: http://www.cadencebuilding.com
Track Listing: Ooh, Baby Baby/ O Barquinho/ I Love You for Sentimental Reasons/ What a Little Moonlight Can Do/ Thanks for the Memories/ Stompin
Personnel: T.J. Graham- vocals; Rory Stuart- guitar. Recorded: July 23 &24, 2001, Rossie, NY.
I was first exposed to jazz circa 1973, when I met a fellow who ran Kappy's Record Store over near 10th Ave., on 42nd St. in NYC. We really clicked and when I told him I played piano and went to Music & Art HS, and had just started at City College of NY as a music major, he asked if I liked jazz...I said yes but I didn't know much about it, but that I did have sheet music for many popular 1920's through 1940's tunes by noted composers (Porter; Gershwins; Irving Berlin; Rodgers & Hammerstein/Hart; Jerome Kern; Lerner & Loewe; etc.) that my mother had sung beautifully starting in the 1940's including tons of famous show tunes, and I played many of those songs already
I was first exposed to jazz circa 1973, when I met a fellow who ran Kappy's Record Store over near 10th Ave., on 42nd St. in NYC. We really clicked and when I told him I played piano and went to Music & Art HS, and had just started at City College of NY as a music major, he asked if I liked jazz...I said yes but I didn't know much about it, but that I did have sheet music for many popular 1920's through 1940's tunes by noted composers (Porter; Gershwins; Irving Berlin; Rodgers & Hammerstein/Hart; Jerome Kern; Lerner & Loewe; etc.) that my mother had sung beautifully starting in the 1940's including tons of famous show tunes, and I played many of those songs already. SOOOO... he started me off LP's by Oscar Peterson, Art Tatum, Bud Powell, Errol Garner, Bill Evans, Monty Alexander, Charlie Byrd, and Dave Brubeck... does it get any better than that? ...No, it doesn't. I was hooked!!
I met and had a master class with the late music giant John Lewis, leader of the Modern Jazz Quartet! This was at CCNY in 1977. I was blessed! It was an incredible class... how could it have been anything else?!?!
The first jazz record I bought was...I bought numerous records from my friend at the record store, as mentioned above. He introduced me to nothing but music giants/legends! I think The Dave Brubeck Quartet, Greatest Hits, was actually the first one.
My advice to new listeners... study first--understand the rudiments--solfeggio, keys, scales, and basic chords. Read a book or take a class that includes the study of chord progressions, especially in jazz. It should ideally be a piano class so you can play multiple notes together. Have a good EAR or else it's not really worth it in my view...to become a musician, a good EAR for music is about as fundamental as breathing! Learn to read chord charts--i.e., lead sheets - wherein you play various voicings of the chords--major, minor, dominant 7th (alterations of these, you can learn over time - the basic chords are most important for starters), plus the melody, on the piano or keyboard. If you have to read the exact notes, then it's not the same as actually internalizing it & getting it all into your head. If you can do this, I think you're ready not only for listening to jazz, but understanding many concepts of it! Of course...anyone can listen to jazz... but I think it's so good to also have a grasp of it.