Halie Loren Quartet
Bach Dancing & Dynamite Society aka Douglas Beach House
Half Moon Bay, California
June 22, 2014
Topping off the late afternoon at the Bach, the Halie Loren Quartet took the stage, ready to give the audience the gift of song. The quartet was composed of Brian West on drums, Mark Schneider
on bass, Matthew Treder
on piano and Halie Loren
vocals. They have been on the rise in the public eye, expanding their horizons and gaining national and international notoriety over the past several years. It is not just a single thing that makes this 29-year-old stand out from the rest of the jazz vocalists, but the whole presentation. She sang to a nearly sold-out gathering. It is stirring for an audience to hear a band from virtually the first bar to the last remain absolutely right on the mark, as compressed, and together as you will ever hear. Within the mix, Loren shapes the songs in such an original way that a number from the great American jazz standards such as "Moon River" comes across with a unique freshness. Given Loren's unique phrasing of "Stormy Weather," it felt as though it had been brewing deep within for a long time. As she sang it, the words seemed to dance from her soul.
At the same time that she shaped the words in her own vibrant way, she also moved with the music. Her gestures, her body movement, her overall smooth animation all conspired to support and breathe new life into a song. Some young singers don't quite know what to do with themselves when they are not singing, but when Loren is off, she continues to "dance" and by so doing she remains inside the song. This could be contrived, could become a mechanical overlay, a bad act, but Loren's movements were as natural as a breeze on a summer morning.
It is this characteristic along with her easy-flowing, unique voice, that makes this young woman stand out, to blossom in an otherwise arid landscape. The backing for all of this is maestro pianist Treder knocking out the harmony while Schneider back there on the bass and West over on the drums give her exquisite, dynamic support. This is most true of West. The rhythmic heart of any song is the drums. The drummer can make or break a band or a song's success. For instance, many jazz drummers are far too heavy handed on their toms and snare drum, often to the point where they overwhelm the rest of the group. They're playing jazz but they act as though they are playing rock music. West on the other hand is the jazz drummer's drummer and has a light touch, but at the same time, he is calmly and definitely there, giving Loren the room she needs to come through for her audience.
Not only does Loren fill a room with her wondrous voice when singing in English, but she also maintains a high-spirited uniqueness when singing French, Italian, Spanish or Portuguese. For instance, in the Spanish song "Quando Bailamos" she came through with a soft, romantic feel that transcended the lyrics. She took a song and used every breath to give the lyrics their unique life as only Loren can do. At times she could boot the lyrics out over the audience while in the next breath, she lured them into back into her warm heart space.
By the end of the show, the audience was hyped with appreciative applause and when the last note came down, there was a roar of approval, calling for an encore. The Halie Loren Quartet laid down a fine version of "I'll Be Seeing You." And then the cry went out for a second encore and this time it was "Hit that Jive Jack." That was rare, to have a call for a second encore. As one of the knowledgeable attendees, a jazz musician himself, said, "Aside from Barbara Morrison, Halie Loren is the best."