Tuesday, January 05, 2016

Old Jazz CD's 2016 - Part One

René Marie
Live At Jazz Standard

By Matt Collar
Idiosyncratic jazz vocalist Rene Marie makes her presence unequivocally apparent on her second MaxJazz release, Live at Jazz Standard. Recorded over three nights in 2003 at the New York City club, the album features Marie's usual mix of standards and originals. Stylistically resting comfortably somewhere between Betty Carter and Shirley Horn, Marie digs into such classics as "Where or When," "Nature Boy," and "A Foggy Day," making each song different from the next and utterly unforgettable. You may never hear another version of "It Might as Well Be Spring" sang as spritely as the one that appears early on, and her take of "I Loves You Porgy" is as heartbreaking as her a cappella turn on "How Can I Keep From Singing?" is dramatic. Backed sensitively by pianist John Toomey, bassist Elias Bailey, and drummer T. Howard Curtis III, Marie just gets better with each solo release.

Jill Seifers & Michael Kanan
Birdland Sessions

By Scott Yanow
Jill Seifers, a singer from Portland who was 32 at the time of Birdland Sessions in 1998, was originally a bop-based scatter. Since that time, she has learned to love lyrics and ballads to the point where everything on this CD is taken at a fairly slow tempo. Accompanied by the sympathetic and supportive piano of Michael Kanan, Seifers displays a voice touched by jazz and folksingers alike. With the exception of Alec Wilder's "Moon and Sand," all of the material is quite familiar (including "Never Let Me Go," "Everything Happens to Me," and "The Talk of the Town"), but the vocalist's sincerity, warmth, and pure joy at singing (even if a lot of the material is downbeat) gives some of the songs a fresh perspective. But do not expect much variety here.

Monica Borrfors

Recorded 1995 at Polar Studios - Sweden
Produced by Lasse Andersson
Engineered by Robert Wellerfors

1 Polka Dots and Moonbeams; 2 I Get Along Without You Very Well; 3 Soon
4 Don't Go to Strangers; 5 Dindi; 6 I Can't Get Started; 7 Folks Who Live on the Hill
8 Masquerade Is Over; 9 Nu Tas Ater Ljusen I Min Lilla Stad; 10 Marionette
11 August Wishing; 12 Everthing Happens to Me; 
13 What Are You Doing for the Rest of Your Life.

Melody Gardot
Worrisome Heart

By Michael G. Nastos
Melody Gardot's debut recording, released in 2006, came two years after she suffered a near fatal automobile accident, the differently able Gardot triumphing in accomplishing what many others, including her, could only dream of. This project has her singing and playing guitar and a little piano, but more so presenting this project of all original material. Gardot has an interesting personal story, but even more intriguing music that straddles the line between lounge jazz, folk, and cowgirl songs. She's part sophisticated chanteuse, college sophomore, and down-home girl next door. Her innocence, sweetness, and light are very alluring, much like the persona of tragic songbirds Eva Cassidy and Nancy LaMott. Feel empathy for Gardot, but don't patronize her -- she's the real deal much more that many of her over-hyped peers. "Quiet Fire" is definitely her signature tune, as it speaks volumes of where her soul is at, in a jazz/blues mode, yearning for true love. The title track follows a similar tack, a slow, sweet, sentimental slinky blues that will melt your heart. A finger-snapping "Goodnite" leaves you wanting that night to continue, but also exudes a hope that permeates the entire recording. She might be a bit down on men during the nonplussed "All That I Need Is Love," but her subdued optimism glows cool. "Sweet Memory" might possibly parallel Feist or perhaps KT Tunstall in a rural country mode, while "Gone" is clearly folkish, and the slow "Some Lessons" expresses a contemporary Nashville precept. The laid-back music behind Gardot is basically acoustic, incorporating hip jazz instrumentation, especially the trumpet of Patrick Hughes and occasional organ, Wurlitzer, or Fender Rhodes from Joel Bryant, but with twists including violin, lap steel, and Dobro. The concise nature of this recording and these tunes perfectly reflects the realization that life is precious, every moment counts, and satisfaction is fleeting. Likely to be placed in the Norah Jones/Nellie McKay/Madeleine Peyroux pseudo jazz/pop sweepstakes, Gardot offers something decidedly more authentic and genuine. She's one-upped them all out of the gate.

Karen Mantler's
Pet Project

By Stewart Mason
Over the course of her first three albums, the ongoing narrative thread of Karen Mantler's music concerned her beloved cat Arnold. 1996's Farewell, written and recorded following her pet's death, concerned the young singer and pianist's grieving process, but life does go on, and four years later, Karen Mantler's Pet Project is a far more lighthearted affair covering the decision to get a new pet. This is by some distance Mantler's most playful and musically accessible album; indeed, it's easy to imagine a parent of some fairly hip and musically aware children using it to introduce their kids to modern creative jazz. As a result, some will likely find the album too whimsical for words. A song cycle discussing the pros and cons of adopting an increasingly unlikely series of animals, Mantler's faux-naïf lyrics are sung by herself and members of her band (including vocalist Eric Mingus, guitarist Hiram Bullock, and for a few lines, her mother Carla Bley) with the utter guilelessness they demand, over settings that range from small-band progressive jazz to Brazilian rhythms to something almost akin to straightforward pop music. Karen Mantler's Pet Project is the sort of album that must be recommended with caveats, as the more self-important jazz fan may well find it unbearably cutesy, and Mantler's musical interests don't lie in the same experimental range as her mother or her equally legendary father Michael Mantler. This is more for fans of the quirkier end of art rock and modern jazz, along the lines of Laurie Anderson or perhaps Nellie McKay.

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