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
I've always loved jazz ...my mother was a classical pianist and my aunt was a blues singer, who was managed by Clarence Williams (Bessie Smith's producer). As a young boy, they introduced me to people like Louis Armstrong, Sarah Vaughan, and Jimmy Smith
I've always loved jazz ...my mother was a classical pianist and my aunt was a blues singer, who was managed by Clarence Williams (Bessie Smith's producer). As a young boy, they introduced me to people like Louis Armstrong, Sarah Vaughan, and Jimmy Smith. We hung out at my Aunt Kate's Soul Food restaurant in Harlem after the matinees at the Apollo where I listened to their stories. I knew I wanted to be a jazz musician from then on. My mother wanted me to play piano, but my Aunt bought me a guitar. I've been playing ever since.
At my mother's early prompting, I first sang Blue Velvet at my Catholic elementary school...and all the nuns came running in and asked me to sing again, so I knew I must have sounded pretty good. I've been singing ever since.
I met Tony Bennett in Miami and he inspired me to return to New York. He was a great mentor.
The best show I ever attended is mpossible to say, I've seen so many great shows. From Tony Bennett to Pat Martino, Return to Forever to Weather Report...I've seen some great performances.
My advice to new listeners is don't let jazz intimidate you, the music has something for every listener and it is our American gift to the world.