Zoe Bossa (Music Thoughts: Shades of Love, Zoe Scott)

It’s 420, so let’s chill, and maybe listen to… bossa nova music? Sure, why not mon. Right now I am spinning Zoe Scott’s ‘Shades of Love’ and is fits the bill just right. Scott is apparently a rock artist who shifted gears and recorded an album of bossa nova music. She employs just the right light touch in here, with her versions of ‘Quiet Nights,’ ‘Wave,’ and ‘Once I Loved’ among others. She sets some pop songs in the same setting, like My Cherie Amour,’ and ‘Baby It’s You.’

She doesn’t do anything ground breaking but these tracks mostly work. Her versions of Amy Winehouse’s ‘You Know I’m No Good’ feels kind of gimmicky, and her “Triste’ lacks melancholy but for the most part these are nice pleasant versions of these songs,

The Shadows of a Song (Music Thoughts: Out Of The Shadows, Parry Ray)

Parry Ray is a London based everything – she is a singer first and foremost, a blogger, an influencer – and she even likes perfumes as I do, so I feel an instant connection to her. And she sings show tunes, which make me love her even more. And based on her new album, ‘Out Of The Shadows,’ it looks like she can sing. I saw her song selection and gasped – wow she has chosen some of my favorites: ‘All That Jazz,’ ‘You Will Be Found,’ and she even does ‘Losing My Mind,’ and let’s see how she does that.

And while her rendition is not very Sally-like, I like it. Ray has a full-bodied voice that is clear, and she sings in a very direct manner. It’s very cabaret, although her arrangements have a bit of a jazz setting. She definitely evokes more mood than rhythm, though. She knows how to express these songs concisely – she doesn’t give as manic interpretation in ‘Losing My Min d,’ but more ‘losing my mind over love for you’ stand. I dig it. Her songs skew more ballad, and I don’t have a problem with that, though listening to the album non-stop could be somewhat of a downer. But I think she’s swell, and this is a much listenable album. I bet she would be great live.

Differently (Music Thoughts: New Sounds From the Jazz Age, Lizzie Thomas)

Different is nice, but nice sometimes isn’t enough. Thats what I thought after listening to Lizzie Thomas’ album ‘New Sounds From the Jazz Age.’ Look, I get it – these songs have been sung innumerable times and it would be very tempting to spin them differently. In this album, most arrangements aren’t run of the mill – there’s a fast paced ‘One Note Samba’ that usurps the samba beat. There’s a somewhat fascinating take on ‘Fascinating Rhythm.’ But I thought a lot of it didn’t have the one thing I am looking for when I want to listen to these songs – heart. I listened to the album quite a few times and at first I couldn’t figure out why I felt so bored listening to it. And then I realize that, for e, there was no connection between singer and song. I didn’t hear it, anyway. And sometimes that’s all you need to make something work.

The Real Teal (Music Thoughts: They Say It’s Swing, Clare Teal)

I first discovered Clare Teal in the mid 90s. I remember being in Tower Records in London perusing through their jazz vocals section and saw her disc prominently displayed. And at that time, it was an ‘import,’ and not available in the US locally. I grabbed the album and quickly became a fan, grabbing everything I could get from her. But to be honest, I haven’t listened to her for a while, until I discovered she had a new album, ‘They Say It’s Swing.’

First of all, I love the title. It’z a play from the lyric from ‘They Say It’s Spring,’ one of my favorites which I know from Blossom Dearie. Teal has a nice formidable voice, and is very at home with the jazz setting. She sings all these songs masterfully, most with light swing arrangements that showcase her strengths. She is a jazz singer, but is not too ‘out there,’ respecting these songs and their wonderful melodies.

And she has a nice repertoire as well, with some of my cherished songs, like ‘I Walk A Little Faster’ (She must really like Blossom) ‘Something Happens To Me.’ And she even is effective in ballads like ‘I Can Dream Can’t I’. This is a much pleasant listen, with depth to sink your teeth into.

That London Feeling (Music Thoughts: I’m Feeling Mellow, Molly Hammer)

Molly Hammer died late December 2020, and I thought I had never heard of her when a saw a jazz singer friend post about her death. Them I realized later on that I had written about her, in this same blog, r: her previous lie album. (I described her as someone who reminded me of Baby Jane Dexter)

I am listening now to her last album, which I also realize was in my ‘New Arrivals’ playlist. This album is a tribute to Julie London, and she sings these songs with very spare backing, a la London. Hammer’s voice has a lot of personality, and at times the vocals seem overwhelming. But no mistake, personality counts. On ‘Guess Who I Saw Today,’ for example, you can really sense and understand the story she is narrating.

The rest of the album is pretty solid as well. I rad that she had been battling cancer the past decade or so, and you can tell in her singing how she knows life. I hope people discover her recordings, as they narrate a life fully lived.

No Connection Morrison (Music Thoughts: Warm & Cozy, Barbara Morrison)

Sometimes you will just never ‘connect’ with a singer. Over the years, I have tried to listen to the singer Barbara Morisson, even seeing her live in concert, and I just felt…nothing. I find nothing unique with her voice – to me she sounds like any generic sounding ‘soul’ voice, and her lyrical interpretations leaves me very cold. But I still give her a chance with every new album she comes up with, to no success for me.

I feel the same with her new album ‘Warm & Cozy,’ which for me is anything but. Backed by Stuart Elster, to me her singing is colder than over. What’s worse, I think she has turned even pitchier, and the way she interprets lyrics to me a big loss.

Case in point: there should be a tinge of sadness in ‘Don’t Get Around Much Anymore,’ but her version is of tone-deaf jubilance. Is she being improvisational, or she just does not respect the lyric? After that, I just got so bored with the rest fo the album. I felt wasted time.

Love or Leave (Music Thoughts: Love Me or Leave Me, Joanna Berkebile)

Joanna Berkebile’s ‘Love Me or Leave Me’ is a Spotify recommended album for me. Berkebile studied and used to perform opera in Los Angeles but has since moved to Kansas City and is now singing jazz. (I think she also is in real estate there)

First off, Berkebile has a great sense of rhythm. I like her here most when she is doing swinging tunes. Her voice has remnants of operatic style, but it isn’t too pronounced or distracting.

I just wished her music excited her more. To me, it just sounds….ordinary. I don’t know how I wished it would be, but it just kinda bores me.

Stacey Snowflake (Music Thoughts: Christmas In the Rockies, Stacey Kent)

I have always loved Stacey Kent. She sounds like a modern jazz singer with old-fashioned sensibilities. I remember when I used to go to London, I would hunt for her discs because (then) they were not available in the States yet. So I was doubly excited to find she recorded Christmas music, an EP called ‘Christmas In the Rockies.’ I mean it’s just four tracks, but they are a fantastic four.

She sings four classics: ‘Sleigh Ride,’ “Christmastime is Here,’ ‘Winter Wonderland,’ and ‘The Christmas Song.’ She doesn’t break the mold on the songs, they have classic arrangements and she sings them well with her sweet and slightly salty voice.

I’ve noticed that there hasn’t been much vocal jazz holiday albums of late, so this is a welcome addition. Stream it before the season ends.

Spring In A Song (Music Thoughts: You Must Believe In Spring, Josie Falbo)

I think there is no song more fitting to sing nowadays than ‘You Must Believe in Spring.’ I mean, this administration, this pandemic – these are dark times and this song is so hopeful. It may be winter now, but you must believe in Spring because it will come. Josie Falbo sings that song in her album (it is also the title of her album) and she sings it masterfully – she captures the despair a lot of us are feeling right now, but her rendition also offers hope. It is a great interpretation of the song.

She sings the rest of the album as wonderfully. Miss Falbo has been singing for thirty five years now (as per her bio) and she definitely knows what she is singing about. She posses the confidence of. woman who has lived these lyrics – and tells a unique story with each of the songs. I liked the way she deconstructs ‘Tis Autumn’ that brings out the meaning of the lyrics, and she swings like mad in ‘Devil May Care.’

Don’t pass by this album, listen to it, and it will be a small light in these times we are living in right now.

Nice and Easy (Music Thoughts: Great Songs from Stage & Screen, Seth McFarlane)

I blinked and Seth McFarlane has a new vocal album, ‘Great Songs From Stage and Screen.’ I feel like he has just released hsi last one, but it could have been a while back. They all blend into one thing for me. I yawned at the album’s concept – songs from movies, expecting the same old familiar tunes.

To my surprise, the song selection is sublime, with the initial track ‘Let’s Not Be Sensible’ a now almost-rare track from the Bing Crosby road movie ‘The Road To Hong Kong.’ Peppered her are some cool gems like ‘Once Upon A Dream’ from Sleeping Beauty, which he does her with rat pack braggadoccio, and ‘Ten Minutes Ago’ from ‘Cinderella’ getting the same treatment.

The problem with the album, in my opinion, is that it is too clean and straight. There’s nothing wrong with McFarlane’s vocals, and the arrangements are impeccable, backed by a stellar orchestra. There’s no oomph or sexiness (or danger) to the songs. As I. listen to it, I keep on thinking how Michael Bublé could do so much more with the same exact material.