Jazz From The Young (Music Thoughts: When I Fall In Love, Jessica Young)

downloadOn Jessica Young’s Soundcloud page (here) the blurb for her have her described as  “a little bit Sade, a lot Billie Holiday, a dash of Janis Joplin.”  Tall orders, for sure. As I listen to her album ‘When I Fall In Love,” I can say I don’t get the Sade at all (on the album cover she looks a little bit, maybe) and there is no Joplin rawness, but there does seem to a bit of Holiday mannerisms.  What I do hear is someone young with good musicality, if a bit green on lyrical interpretation. That’s not necessarily a bad thing – she will obtain life experiences and her singing will deepen, and richer. Maybe she will even shed her Billie mannerisms and vocal stylings which sometimes sound forced because she wants to sound ‘jazzy.’  But she isn’t bad at all here, and shows a lot of promise.  For sure, I can sense that she has great affinity for this music and will evolve on her own. But for now, not just yet.

Buczek Fenced (Music Thoughts: Ella Lives, Vivian Buczek)

405224-350x350In case you were wondering why there have been a lot of Ella Fitzgerald tributes lately, it’s because this year would have been her 100th birthday. Swedish jazz singer has released a new album called ‘Ella Lives’ wherein she sings ten songs associated with the Queen of Jazz. Buczek, to be honest, is mostly unknown to me, but I am not on the up and up on Swedish jazz singers anyway. She has a nice reedy voice, but her style is definitely more rigid than Ella’s. I like her most when she has room to sing within the arrangements. Martin Sjöstedt apparently did the arrangements here, and some are too mannered for my taste, trying too much to be jazz than tuneful. But in songs like ‘Tenderly,’ and ‘The Very Thought Of You,’ for example, Buczek gets to exercise her appealing vocals.  And even in others like ‘Misty,’ she soars. Although she doesn’t sing this particular Cole Porter song here, I wanna tell her musicians: Don’t Fence Her In.

Standard Blues (Music Thoughts: A Taste of Me: Great American Songs, Latimore)

51G13gKDMzL._SS500Latimore is Benjamin Latimore, a famed Blues singer from the 70s, whose hit ‘Let’s Straighten it Out’ is a modern classic. In ‘A Taste Of Me: The Great American Songs,” he sings songs from The Great American Songbook, and you know me, I am always down with unique interpretations of standards.

Latimore sings these chestnuts his own way, for sure. I confess that this type of style is not my most favorite, but the marriage of it and these songs make for an interesting aural experience. He certainly feel these songs, and you can sense his familiarity and affinity for them. The title track, ‘A Taste Of me,’ is an English version of the Spanish song ‘Sabor A Mi’ and he does a very unique take on it, and I swear it sounds like a Latimore original. Only a unique artist, for example, can make Joe Cocker’s ‘You Are So Beautiful’ sounds like a classic blues track, and he acieves that here.  Honestly, some of these versions will not end up as my favorite ones, but more power to him for making them sound like his and his alone. If you are a Latimore fan, you will certainly love this album. If you are a fan of the songs, these may or may not suit your style.  But it’s never ever boring.

Changing A Hair (Music Thoughts: Under the Covers, Alice Fredenham)

ALICE-FREDENHAM-768x768Alicia Fredenham was a contestant/contender on the television show ‘Britain’s Got Talent’ and was championed by Simon Cowell. She only got through half-way, but amassed a bit of the following. ‘Under The Covers’ is her first album, funded on Kickstarter. She has a strong, fiery voice, and does good service froms oem art songs, and I kind of like her cover of Jackson Browne’s ‘Doctor My Eyes’ here. Most of her album is not really my cup of tea, but I give respect to her non cookie cutter mold style.

Apparently, her most recognizable piece on the show is a moody version of ‘My Funny Valentine,’ which she of course includes here. She was doing fine until she committed what in my opinion is a mortal sin – butchering Larry Hart’s lyrics. She misquotes one of the most poignant lyrics of the song: “don’t change a hair for me.”  Instead she sings – “Don’t change YOUR hair for me.” This is what I consider a rookie mistake, and should never have gone past her, or the producer of the track. It is extremely clumsy, and unforgivable. And for that reason, I do not ever want to hear her name of her album again.

Jazz Singing From Japan (Music Thoughts: And I’ll Sing Once More, Sari)

DG-1009Japan is a country that has big love for jazz.  I remember during the days when I collected compact discs that whenever there was an obscure title that I was searching, more often than not it would be available in Japan.  So it is no surprise that there would be great jazz vocals that would come from Japan. One of my recent discoveries is someone named Sari. I wish I knew more about her, but all I can go by is that she is on Twitter as @SariSwing, and she does have a Facebook page, and a website, though the last one is in Japanese.

But it’s the music that matters more. In her new album, ‘And I’ll Sing Once More,’ she shows great love for the Great American Songbook, and she sings it with purposeful swing. She has a great sense of rhythm, and has a great appealing tone. She goes through the standards – ‘Too Darn Hot,’ Just One Of Those Things,’ ‘I Wish You Love’ – with great musicality. I recently played her album on a flight and it was a fantastic way to score my travel. There is one misstep – a jazz version of ‘The Sound Of Music,’ (the title of the album stems from a lyric there) but it fails more because of the song, which really isn’t too conducive to be jazzified. Otherwise, this is a good solid album.

Yorkshire Treasure (Music Thoughts, Unphotographable, Emma Nabarro-Steel)

41haAAcrGTL._SS500It’s always a good day when I discover a new singer, and I recently found one. Her name is Emma Nabarro-Steel, and information on the internet about her is kind of scarce. This is all I have got about her.

Jazz vocalist Emma Nabarro-Steel has spent almost a decade performing and recording jazz standards with many of the UK’s finest jazz musicians. An improvising vocalist and instrumentalist, she has been described as a “a jazz singing natural” and “a fresh jazz singer who floats a song lyric without losing her grip on it” (Manchester evening news). Born in Nottingham, UK, and now based in Leeds, BBC Radio 4 bestowed on her the proud title of “Yorkshire’s Ella Fitzgerald” after a 2006 performance on Woman’s Hour.

Maybe I love her more because she is British, as I love all things Anglo, but really in this, her 2006 album, what I hear is a fresh-sounding singer with great flair and also a keen sense of lyric interpretation. She weaves her way into various chestnuts – ‘I Get Along Without You Very Well,’ ‘I Fall In Love Too Easily,’ ‘Just Squeeze Me,’ and I swear it feels like I am hearing those songs for the first time. She sings ‘My Funny Valentine’ softly, as if a prayer, and it gives the song more tenderness. I wish I had some more information, like who did the splendid arrangements, for example. I don’t even know if this album is easy to find, but I assure you it is worth hunting.

To Sing Is Human (Music Thoughts, Human Heart, Natalie Douglas)

29E65BA31-97D0-886A-935CC28CAB5652CCIf you were to look at the cover album of Natalie Douglas’ ‘Human Heart,’ you could probably conclude that Douglas was one of those singers with a scream-y shout-y black woman sassy voice. And while she seems to be a woman and sassy, the other parts of that statements do not apply to her. Douglas has one of those tender voices that caress songs, and in her album ‘Human Heart’ that tenderness is in full bloom.

I actually discovered Douglas a long time ago. I was at Footlight Records store (remember record stores?) and they were playing her and it was one of those “who is that singing” moments, and I remember buying her disc immediately.  Here we are now, more than a decade and a half later, and her record is again amazing me.

She has the most eclectic taste in her selection, with everything from  Nina Simone to Abbey Lincoln to show tunes. The title track, ‘Human Heart’ is one of my favorite songs from the musical ‘Once On This Island’ and her interpretation brings out the message of the lyrics forcefully – it’s feel-better anthem in full display.  Douglas is big on messages, even if it’s the relentless optimism of ‘The Best Is Yet To Come,’ or the brittle strength of ‘I Hold No grudge.’  This is one of those albums that is multi-layered. You think you have heard it all but then a song comes up, like Kurt Weill’s ‘It Never Was You,’  and you are suddenly entranced again. Let’s give this a million stars.