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Three Female Vocalists: Dianne Reeves, Janis Siegel, and Nancy Kelly


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The flood of impressive recordings by female jazz vocalists shows no signs of slowing down. Here are three more fine vocal recitals.

Dianne Reeves
Good Night And Good Luck
Concord Music Group

Good Night And Good Luck is a mature, full-bodied jazz vocal recital of period standards surrounding the history reflected in George Clooney's movie of the same title. The setting is the early 1950s Joe McCarthy era of open season on personal rights—McCarthy's House Un-American Activities Committee and its fallout. Backed by a solid quintet with a saxophone front and rhythm section including percussionists on two tunes, the divine Dianne Reeves freshly interprets the radio fare of the 1950s. Pianist Peter Martin exercises his considerable chops on the Matt Catingub arrangements, closely capturing the ambiance of a smoky lounge, replete with bowls of peanuts and wet-glass-stained napkins and coasters.

Right behind Martin in the chops show is bassist Robert Hurst on "Too Close For Comfort and Christoph Luty on "How High The Moon. Matt Catingub's saxophones add just the right amount of whiskey kicker to the mix, providing a big band feel on a sultry "Straighten Up And Fly Right and fine obbligatos elsewhere. His arrangements alone make him shine. But the true star is Reeves, who sings with a wealth of experience and professionalism. Her vocal performances are straight ahead and offer the listener an idea of what the actual melodies of these standards are before the cats improvise. This is a great, great recording.

Janis Siegel
A Thousand Beautiful Things

Janis Siegel is one quarter of the Manhattan Transfer. She and vocal band mate Cheryl Bentyne have produced a sting of well-received and successful recordings, most possessing concept elements. A Thousand Beautiful Things can be described as a breezy romp in the Caribbean winds. The rhythm quartet of pianist Edsel Gomez, uber-Latin bassist John Benitez, drummer Steve Hass and percussionist Luisito Qunitero support the vast majority of the recording, laying down a solid Latin-Islands foundation for Siegel to spin her concept over. Solid Latin rhythms infuse the music of contemporary artists such as Suzanne Vega ("Caramel ) and Annie Lennox ("A Thousand Beautiful Things ).

Closer to jazz home are treatments of Fred Hersch and Norma Winstone's "A Wish (Valentine) and Danilo Perez's a cappella "...Till Then. Everything clicks on Raul Midon's "Make It Better. All elements of the Latin band are pushed into hard overdrive, resulting in a thrilling ride. Regarding the other band members, standouts include Columbian harpist Edmar Casteneda, whose work on "A Wish, "Caramel and "Reflecting Light add a dense authenticity to the recording affair. Siegel's voice remains pliant and elastic as it gains the maturity of a successful 30 year career. A very fine reading.

Nancy Kelly
Born To Swing
Amherst Records

Nancy Kelly likes to belt them out. With an upper-midrange timbre, Kelly likes to stretch phrases, alter times, sing on the off beat, or ahead of said beat. She turns in a Frank Sinatra set of standards replete with the vocal gymnastics of a Betty Carter and the subtle control of a Tierney Sutton. She charges out of the chute with "I've Got The World On A String and "Like Someone In Love. She swings "You'd Be So Nice To Come Home To, accompanied by only pianist Dino Losito, bassist Neil Miner and drummer Mark Taylor. Taylor provides the perfect time behind Losito's block chords and Miner's chorus-long solo. Over the cacophony, Kelly creates her own universe of swing, executed with nuclear cool.

Kelly proves an equally capable ballad singer with "More Than You Know and "Didn't We. These are perfectly fine vehicles for her talent, but it is the fast tunes that are her real forte. She is one of the few artists who I have heard cover the late Anita O'Day's "Let Me Off Uptown. She attacks the piece with gusto, supported by Houston Person's tenor sax playing foil to her own instrument. A brisk, bluesy "Let's Talk Business follows an introspective "New York State Of Mind, closing out a completely satisfying vocal outing.

Tracks and Personnel

Good Night And Good Luck

Tracks: Straighten Up And Fly Right; I've Got My Eyes On You; Gotta Be This Or That; Too Close For Comfort; How High The Moon; Who's Minding The Store?; You're Driving Me Crazy; Pretend; Solitude; TV Is The Thing This Year; Pick Yourself Up; When I Fall In Love; Into Each Life Some Rain Must Fall; There'll Be Another Spring; One For My Baby.

Personnel: Dianne Reeves: vocals; Matt Catingub: alto saxophone, tenor saxophone; Peter Martin: piano; Robert Hurst, Christoph Luty: bass; Jeff Hamilton: drums; Alex Acuña: percussion (11); Alan Estes: percussion (4).

A Thousand Beautiful Things

Tracks: Hidden Place; The Suitcase Song; I Can't Help It; Caramel; A Thousand Beautiful Things; A Wish (Valentine); Love; Make It Better; ... Till Then; Sweet Is The Air; Reflecting Light; Did You See The Moon Tonight.

Personnel: Janis Siegel: vocals; Edsel Gomez: piano; Edmar Casteneda: Colombian harp; John Benitez: acoustic bass and electric six-string bass; Steve Hass: drums; Luisito Quintero: percussion, drums and percussion (8); Marlon Saunders: background vocals, improvised recitation (5); Saunders, Quintero, Hass, Benitez, Gomez and Las Siegeltas (Silvia Ramirez, Silvia Rodriques, Silvia Maria Romery and Silvia Rosario): background vocals (2); Gomez, Quintero, Saunders, Benitez and Hass: background vocals (3); Brian Lynch, trumpet (3) and flugelhorn (10).

Born To Swing

Tracks: I've Got The World On A String; Like Someone In Love; You'd Be So Nice To Come Home To; More Than You Know; Falling In Love With Love; Let Me Off Uptown; Didn't We; Come Rain Or Come Shine; I'll Be Seeing You; Watch What Happens; New York State Of Mind; Let's Talk Business.

Personnel: Nancy Kelly: vocals: Houston Person: tenor saxophone; Dino Losito: piano and Fender Rhodes; Neal Miner: bass; Mark Taylor: drums.

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