VOICES Notes and news on Jazz Vocals releases
11 FEB 14 CONCORD MUSIC GROUP
Four-time GRAMMY winner Dianne Reeves has released Beautiful Life, her eagerly anticipated first album in five years. New to the Concord Records imprint, yet established as one of the classiest vocalists around, Reeves powerfully sustains her genre-defying tradition with elements of jazz, contemporary R&B, classic soul, modern pop, and vintage funk. Through her two sublime originals, "Cold" and "Satiated (Been Waiting)," along with covers by Marvin Gaye, Fleetwood Mac, Bob Marley, and Ani DiFranco, Reeves covers a lot of musical ground—and incorporates a lot of talent, too.
Beautiful Life features an A-list supporting crew, including production by Terri Lynne Carrington and musical appearances by Esperanza Spalding, Gregory Porter, Robert Glasper, and George Duke. A soulful and sophisticated rendering with a sweet, sexy, and celebratory underlying tone, Beautiful Life is an inspiring affirmation not to be missed.
21 DEC 13 CHRIS SLAWECKI
Search the Concord website for "Burt Bacharach" and the engine returns no results. But the brilliance of his collaborative songwriting with lyricist Hal David, especially in the 1960s and early '70s, shines throughout this catalog.
Lushly remade, "Walk on By" kicks off Isaac Hayes' solo breakout Hot Buttered Soul (Stax, 1987, and now available on vinyl, too). But it was (much) differently addressed by saxophonist Sonny Stitt on Soul Classics (Original Jazz Classics, 1991), was reinvented by the Wynton Kelly Trio on Full View (OJC, '96), and also turned up on Brothers-4 (Prestige, 2005), which marks the last time that soulmates Don Patterson and Stitt recorded together.
"Close to You" was addressed opulently by Hayes on Black Moses (Stax, '89) and tastily by Ella Fitzgerald on Ella A Nice (OJC, '90), but also appears on funky Prestige Legends of Acid Jazz compilations from Houston Person ('96) and Leon Spencer ('97), and was more smoothly rendered by Gerald Albright (Pushing the Envelope [Heads Up, 2010]).
Hayes also surveys "The Windows of the World" Live At The Sahara Tahoe (Stax, '89) and "Do You Know the Way to San Jose?" appears on Quartets & Orchestra (Milestone, '89), which compiles the last two albums that pianist-composer Bobby Timmons recorded for Milestone.
Plus there's Dionne Warwick's retrospective My Friends & Me (Concord, 2006), where the primary voice of these and other Bacharach-David classics revisits them in the company of old friends and new, including Gladys Knight, Angie Stone and other vocal contemporaries.
22 SEP 13 ANNE FARNSWORTH
Singer Sarah Vaughan shares a vaunted position with Ella Fitzgerald as one of the two most influential and important jazz singers of all time. Concord released an updated version of her 1979 Pablo two-album undertaking, a definitive compilation of Duke Ellington music. Sophisticated Lady: The Duke Ellington Songbook, is an astounding achievement, a 2-disc offering of 27 tracks including six previously unreleased tracks.
This is the best jazz has to offer, with a stunning pedigree of first-rate musicians led by legendary producer Norman Granz. Granz founded the Pablo label in 1973, having sold off his four previous labels, including Verve, a decade earlier. He signed Vaughan in 1978, shocked that she had been without a recording contract for the past three years. She went on to release exemplary albums including a Brazilian-themed recording and a wonderful collaboration with guitarist Joe Pass. All of Granz's Pablo releases feature the crème de la crème of 20th century jazz, curated by a man who for 50 plus years was a leader in presenting the uppermost level of American musical talent.
Granz was first introduced to Vaughan's remarkable voice when she performed at one of his Jazz At The Philharmonic concerts in 1946 at Carnegie Hall. Ellington Songbook, originally released in 1980, shows Vaughan, some 35 years later, still at the height of her powers.
What can be said about Vaughan's voice that hasn't already been reported during her 40 years of stardom? Her remarkable gifts combined a three-octave range with an impeccable ear, formal musical training and a bop sensibility that led her, like Ella, Anita O'Day and Betty Carter, to instrumental-style improvisation, her musical influences coming from horn players rather than other singers.
An accomplished pianist, she first appeared in the Apollo Theater's famed talent contest as an accompanist for a singing girlfriend. She later returned to compete as a singer herself, performing "Body And Soul." She won, of course.
Ellington Songbook features famed arranger/bandleader Benny Carter and a full orchestra including a rhythm section of pianist Jimmy Rowles, Andy Simpkins on bass and drummer Grady Tate.
Recorded between 1979-80, they feature not only the most beloved of Ellington's compositions but also the ones that are the most difficult to sing. Originally written as instrumentals, the melodies have huge ranges with large leaps that challenge even the most accomplished vocalists. A must-have addition to any jazz lover's collection, this release is a tour de force, a fitting tribute not only to Ellington, one of our most important American composers, but for the original sophisticated lady herself.
02 SEP 13 ANNE FARNSWORTH
Eliane Elias' latest recording was just released May 28 but it has already reached #1 in sales and airplay in the U.S. and France on Amazon and #2 on iTunes. I Thought About You (A Tribute To Chet Baker) is an affectionate homage to the soulful trumpet player who sang with a wistful, wounded-soul tenor that captivated jazz fans.
With the 25th anniversary of Baker's death, there have been several releases dedicated to his memory. But Elias has some bona fides to go along with her innate artistry -- her husband, bassist Marc Johnson, and drummer Victor Lewis, who, with Elias on piano, make up her rhythm section on this set, played with the man himself. Legendary musician Randy Brecker fills in for Baker on trumpet and flugelhorn on three of the tracks, leading soli intro sections and contributing sensitive Baker-ish solos on "There Will Never Be Another You" and "Just Friends," as well as opening "That Old Feeling" with the little-heard verse melody.
Rather than a mere reproduction of Baker's best-known songs, Elias brings her Brazilian sensibilities to bear on the arrangements. "I Thought About You," the first track, begins with a reharmonization of the opening changes. "Blue Room" opens with the first chorus done as a duet of Johnson's bass and Elias' voice.
Baker standards "There Will Never Be Another You" and "Let's Get Lost" sparkle as sambas, while "Embraceable You" grooves to a sultry bossa nova beat.
It's a full circle of style and influence, as Elias explains: "Chet and the cool jazz movement were influential to the bossa nova artists in the 1950s. João Gilberto, Toquinho, Vinicius de Moraes, and Antonio Carlos Jobim are just a few who have spoken to this influence. Chet sang and played with a purity of sound, and had a way of phrasing without much affectation, floating over the bar line, an approach which is immediately recognizable in the delivery of some of the great bossa nova artists, like João Gilberto."
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