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Ten Men

C. Michael Bailey By

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My unscientific estimate contends that there are three female vocalists for every male vocalist. This does not mean that there are no male vocalists out there as evidenced by these ten examples. They just take a little longer to accumulate.

Jay Leonhart and Tomoko Ohno
Don't You Wish
Chancellor Music
2017

Jay Leonhart is a known entity. He is a well-known bassist and singer, and as he proves on Don't You Wish a quite decent composer and lyricist. Joined by pianist Tomoko Ohno, Leonhart breezes through ten very clever and well-considered songs that the bassist has composed over the last 25 years. What Leonhart excels at is building songs with perfect rhymes. From "I Got the Blues:" "Baby, I got the blues / Since I got the news / You've heard from the muse / And you're in Santa Cruz, without me" is but a small example. His harmonic structures are simple and bode well to his "lyricist voice." Leonhart and Ohno have performed together for eight years and it shows. The two share an empathic embrace in conveying the humor and challenge of Leonhart's lighthearted lyrics and entertaining stories of his life as a musician. Jay Leonhart is the soul of the sardonic, something he shares with Dave Frishberg.

Allan Harris
The Genius of Eddie Jefferson
Resilience Music Alliance
2018

While Eddie Jefferson did not invent vocalese (that is either King Pleasure or Babs Gonzales) he was a foremost innovator of the art, his 1962 Letter From Home (Riverside) and 1968 Body and Soul (Prestige) being his masterpieces. New York City-native singer Allan Harris steps away from his traditional ballad crooning role to take on Jefferson's book of bebop, paying necessary homage to that master at the same time. If that were not special enough, Harris' inclusion of pianist Eric Reed, alto saxophonist Richie Cole and tenor saxophonist Ralph Moore ice the deal completely. Starting with Miles Davis's "So What," Harris that his ballad finesse smooths any rough edges typical of vocalese. "Dexter Digs In" nods to its composer, Dexter Gordon, Reed bearing down on his solo and Moore shooting the moon with Cole. Cole supplies the disc's closer, the wistful "Waltz for a Rainy Bebop Evening," a necessary coolant for the hotter tunes, "Billy's Bounce" and "Filthy McNasty." The Genius of Eddie Jefferson is beyond a pleasant surprise. It is a re-introduction to some of the hippest music made.

Fred Farell
Distant Song—Fred Farell sings the music of Dave Liebman and Richie Beirach
Whaling School Sound
2018

Fred Farell's singing career began in the early 1970s in New York City, where he studied and gigged around with Quest pianist Richie Beirach. Int the creative miasma of that terrain, Farell also met saxophonist Dave Liebman, whose music he was drawn to. During this period Farell was writing song lyrics only put music aside in the late 1970s—early '80s, following a purposeful conversion to Christianity. Recent, Farell has reconsidered the lyrics he penned for the music of Beirach and Liebman, approaching the two musicians with the present project, Distant Song—Fred Farell sings the music of Dave Liebman and Richie Beirach. To be sure, this is not your parents' jazz vocals album. Farell's lyrics have a nondescript, untethered character to them, allowing him freedom to stretch out his well-balanced tenor-baritone that remind me of Kurt Elling. There is a relaxed freedom to these songs, Beirach's piano performance calming and tranquil, while Leibman's reeds probe for deeper emotions among that tranquility. Excellent is the title piece, where all three artists meet on even ground to produce art half improvised half fully planned, framing Farell's spiritual lyrics in infinity.

Nino Tempo
Purveyor of Balladry—The Best of Nino Tempo on Atlantic
Omnivore Records
2018

Saxophonist Nino Tempo should be better known. A member of the West Coast session group The Wrecking Crew, Tempo is represented on scores of recordings by Dion and John Lennon to Linda Ronstadt and Phil Spector. He scored a number 1 hit in 1963 with sister April Stevens on "Deep Purple." Rarely recording as a leader, Tempo did manage to put together several recordings from the 1990s, the best of which is collected here on Purveyor of Balladry—The Best of Nino Tempo on Atlantic. These Tempo recordings were made a time after the loss of both Stan Getz, Al Cohn and Zoot Sims, the tenor sound he most centrally represents, garnering praise by Leonard Feather who called him a "purveyor of balladry. This Omnivoire release shows most succinctly how Tempo was able to successfully meld what is good about adult contemporary jazz with the mainstream genre as is illustrated on the standards "This Masquerade," "'Round Midnight," and "Stella by Starlight." All are lushly orchestrated to allow Tempo's muscular tenor to float above. Duets with April Stevens ("Amazon River") and Roberta Flack ("You are So Beautiful") are a plus.

Sandy Bull
Steel Tears / Endventions & Tributes
Omnivore Records
2018

Sandy Bull is not a household name. That said, he was a significate footnote is rock music history, if for nothing else, for the $20,000 he loaned Jann Wenner to keep Rolling Stone magazine afloat back in the day. He is mentioned by Dr. Hunter S. Thompson in Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas and was the junkie who "shoot Coca-Cola" in the Beatles' "Come Together." He was a stringed instrument prodigy who started as a standard folk singer only to become the synthesizer of all popular music genre in the 1960s and '70s. He did this all below the surface, never fully breaking the surface on the national stage. He was well known in the music community, but his career was crippled by his nagging chemical dependency. Steel Tears / Endventions & Tributes is a combination of this final recording from 1996 (when he was diagnosed with lung cancer) with previously unreleased songs from the original recording sessions, plus three homages by Jeff Hanna, Mickey Raphael, and Matraca Berg. The music is country, but not any country. Bull was voracious in his musical appetites, adding something unique no matter what the genre. Check out "Love is Forever." It has it all.

Gregory Generet and Richard Johnson
2 of a Kind
Afar Music
2018

2 of a Kind is a wholly organic jazz recording. Vocalist Gregory Generet and pianist Richard Johnson (notable for his past membership in the Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra and Wynton Marsalis' septet) join forces on a potent collection of original compositions and standards, split half and half. The arrangements for all are progressive and assertive. The ballad "Angel Eyes" is put on the stove with the gas on high. Generet manhandles the familiar melody, producing an upbeat siren of an old favorite. On the other sonic end, "You'd Be So Nice To Come Home To" both Generet and Johnson strip things down to the bare essence of the Cole Porter classic, allowing bassist Barry Stephenson ample arco solo space. Johnson provides several original compositions, showing off that skill, in addition to his arranging duties. Generet meets the challenge on all of the pieces singing with a beautifully fractured masculine voice that is as deep and rich as the fecund musical alluvium from which jazz emerged. 2 of a Kind may the the surprise recording considered here. But, it really should not be a surprise at all.

Gary Brumburgh
Moonlight
Café Pacific Records
2018

Gary Brumburgh has been ins showbusiness most of his life, narrowing his focus to singing in 2003 and releasing his fist recording, Up Jumped Spring in 2008. In 2012, the singer began an intense four-year battle with head and neck cancer that resulted in a remission at the expense of some residual neck damage but intact vocal chords. Producer Barbara Brighton caught a Brumburgh performance at Vitello's in Studio City, subsequently offering the singer to help with a recording. This brought Brumburgh into contact with father and son pianist pair Terry and Jamieson Trotter (the two appearing together on the same project here), guitarist Larry Koonse and LA everyman saxophonist Bob Sheppard. Deep in the background is that West Coast magician, Mark Winkler, never far from this group. Brumburgh is cast as an actor performing dialog as song. This is true, but on the other side of this thought is the singer's superb song choice for his sophomore effort Moonlight. He is masterful on the fast of the past, "Dig/Sweet Georgia Brown" and the slow and low, a stunning performance of "Wichita Lineman." His recital is filled with 1960s-80s popular music on its way to becoming the new standards. Relaxed and hip, Gary Brumburgh adds a certain class to his music and the environment in which he makes it.

Wayne Powers
If Love Were All
Kabockie Records
2018

Wayne Powers' shtick is fully encompassed in his chosen expression: "It's a Fine Line: Renaissance Man or Dilettante." This guy is no stranger to the stage, regardless of the form of entertainment: actor/comedian, voice-over artist, radio personality, and, finally, jazz vocalist. He has recorded before, 25 years ago, releasing Plain Old Me (Warped Records). Powers' voice is well-trained. His phrasing is intelligent and well chosen. He spins stories from "Never Let Me Go" and "You Don't Know what Love Is." Powers is every bit the showman, infusing his interpretations with a breezy, swinging aplomb. Powers has no fear of even the most ridden standards, dispatching "All of Me" and "Lush Life" the latter including a sensitive Keith Davis piano introduction to one of the greatest and most covered ballads, one that Powers make uniquely his own. Powers' is an older brand of jazz vocals, one not unlike that of Jack Sheldon it is full of mirth and not just a little of a wink to not taking himself too seriously. And that makes this release fun.

Maurice Frank
Mad Romance and Love
Jumo Music Group
2018

A well-balanced voice is always a plus in jazz vocals. Maurice Frank is a case in point. His voice possesses just the proper calibration of sweetness with a potent virile edge that does not overwhelm the former. A native of Yonkers, Frank had plenty of exposure to the jazz of the day from records by Nat Cole, Frank Sinatra, Mel Torme , Ray Charles, Louis Prima, and Tony Bennett all playing on the jukebox of his parents' local bar. Frank opens his debut recording Mad Romance and Love with a duet treatment of "How Little We Know" shared with bassist Luques Curtis. Frank does not dwell on the more well-worn members of the American Songbook, preferring to remain just below that surface with tunes like "Slow Hot Wind" and "Dream Dancing." Frank's informed expressiveness is well documents on an upbeat "On the Street Where You Live" while toning things back on a wonderfully effected "Baubles, Bangles and Beads." Saxophonist Aaron Heick-peppers the latter with his slippery soprano saxophone interacting almost percussively with {{Obed Calvaire's delicate drumming and Samuel Torres informed percussion. Frank's is a welcome voice in jazz singing.

Tony Joe White
Bad Mouthin'
Yep Roc Records
2018

Yes, this is that Tony Joe White..."Polk Salad Annie," "Rainy Night in Georgia," "Willie and Laura Mae Jones" (the last covered by Dusty Springfield on her Dusty in Memphis (Atlantic, 1969) sessions). And for those of you who think he fell out of sight, White has continued to record, most recently releasing: Hoodoo (Yep Roc Records, 2013) and Rain Crow (Yep Roc Records, 2016) and, now following these with Bad Mouthin'. They say that we become more like ourselves as we age. This is certainly true of White. His murky bayou mouth has deepened and become more conversational, full of moonshine, honey, and morphine. His instrumentation has become sparer, here mostly just himself and his Fender Stratocaster with a bit of drumming. The sound is spare. It is the sound of Louisiana swamp blues, circa Slim Harpo and Excello records. The blues infuse this recording: "Baby Please Don't Go," "Boom Boom," "Down the Dirt Road Blues." White includes five old originals, the oldest being the title cut and "Sundown Blues" having been recorded in 1966 for a long-ago Corpus Christi local label. While in twilight, White is as relevant now as he was singing about that girl's mama workin' on a chain gang.

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Bailey's Bundles
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