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Vocalist Lorraine Feather is first and foremost, a lyricist. The daughter of jazz writer, composer, and producer, Leonard Feather, she has released a mess of recordings, all of which feature finely crafted songs composed from the same brew that gave rise to Tippo, Mississippi's Mose Allison and St. Paul, Minnesota's Dave Frishberg.
On Tales of the Unusual, the smart lyric writing, contemporary and current, passes for neither modern Country and Western nor old-time Tin Pan Alley, as "Off-The- Grid Girl" illustrates early in the rotation. Co-written with Eddie Arkin, the song features Grant Geissman's sinewy electric guitar, leading to a full-bore cabaret number with the craziest lyrics you could hope for:
We've got these rats as big as cats, Slugs as long as your arm, A nasty nest of rattlesnakes Down by the onion farm. We brought them in to eat the rats, Which, as I stated, are big as cats. All they did was multiply and grow. It's a very scary place to be, Unless you're an off-the-grid girl like me.
Along with these tasty and expeditious lyrics, Geissman injects some muscular slide guitar that melds well with Charles Bisharat's gothic violin, transforming this turn-of-the-century stage number into gold.
"Five" is smart jazz-hip hop, percussion-propelled and cleverly fashioned. "Out There" is an eerie Outer Limits type of song, where Feather sings lyrics from a fevered Twin Peaks dream fueled by gin and clove cigarettes. Pianist Shelly Berg adds a block-chord solo that perfectly fits into the Twilight Zone of Feather's poetry (derived, she admits, from The X-Files).
Feather adapts music from Italian pianist Enrico Pieranunzi on "I Took Your Hand," while the too-smart "Indiana Lana" assimilates Duke Ellington's "Jubilee Stomp." Spreading her mojo over the two disparate pieces, she anoints them with her special brand of genius and fun. File Tales of the Unusualunder "the smartest jazz lyrics you are likely to hear."
Track Listing: The Hole in the Map; Off-the-Grid Girl; Where is Everybody?; The Usual Suspects; Five; Sweet Miriam; Out There; Get a Room; Cowbirds; I Took Your Hand (Fellini's Waltz); Indiana Lana; To Live Another Day; Ahh.
Personnel: Lorraine Feather: vocals, lyricist; Russell Ferrante: piano (1-6, 9, 12, 13), arranger (1, 4, 5, 9, 13); Shelley Berg: piano and arrangements (7, 8, 10, 11); Michael Valerio: bass (1-10, 12); Grant Geissman: guitar (1-6, 12); Mike Miller: guitar (7, 8); Michael Shapiro: drums (1-5, 12), percussion (1, 3, 4, 5, 12); Gregg Field: drums (6, 7, 8, 10) Charles Bisharat: violin (1-3, 5, 7, 8, 10, 12); Lorraine Feather: background vocals (1, 5, 7, 13); Carlos Del Rosario: background vocals (13); Eddie Arkin: arranger (2, 3, 6, 12).
I love jazz because anything is possible; it has few rules and the best jazz breaks those ones. I prefer free improv because it doesn't really have any rules at all.
I was first exposed to jazz in my teens (in the late sixties).
The first jazz record I bought was Filles de Kilimanjaro by Miles Davis, shortly followed by Extrapolation by John McLaughlin.
My advice to new listeners is to listen as widely as possible and not to make snap judgments--stick with it.