Starting from Barbra’s Start (Music Thoughts: Starting Here Starting Now, Cornelia Luna)

cornelia-luna-starting-here-starting-now-cd-cover-tmr-december-2018What a way to start the New Year but with an album titled ‘Starting Here Starting Now.’ It is by Cornelia Luna, who I remember being one of the Kims in the Original Broadway Cast of Miss Saigon. Initially, I thought that the album would be Broadway songs but I read up and saw that the inspiration of the album is Barbra Streisand. These are songs that are associated with Barbra, and she culls from the earlier albums, when Streisand was singing arrangements by Peter Matz.  Backed by the Bill King Trio, Luna sings with jazzy inflections. I don’t dislike her interpretations, but I probably have to get used to these arrangements of her songs. I don’t know if her stylings, for example, work on a song like ‘Will Someone Ever Look At me That Way?’ a song so personal that this version seems cold and impersonal. But on ‘Gotta Move,’ you can tell that Luna knows how to interpret and sing songs her way. And on the title track, there’s a high reached there that tells the full story of the lyric. It is interesting to me that she chose to sing songs from Barbra’s last duet album, ‘Any Moment Now,’ and ‘Loving You,’ (the former she duets with Gavin Hope) because stylistically they are very different from Barbra’s early material and they really don’t gel well together, but that is forgiven by her tender ‘I Had Myself A True Love,’ my favorite track from the album.

Not Lena (Music Thoughts: Classy & Sassy: A Lena Horne Tribute, Julia Breanetta Simpson)

lena-horne-tributeOh, the albums you find on Spotify. ‘Classy and Sassy, A Lena Horne Tribute’ was recommended to me, and it is a collection of songs obviously giving tribute to Ms. Horne, sung by someone named Julia Breanetta Simpson.  I haven’t a clue who she is, which is sometimes good because I won’t have any pre-conceived notions as I listen to the tracks. And while I think the album cover is on the amateurish side, the music, thankfully, isn’t. She sings these songs well, if not too straightforward at times. Miss Horne had a unique, distinct voice, and I wish I could say the same for Ms. Simpson.  While she sings well, and in tune, it is on the blander side, compared to Lena Horne. Taken as a group of songs in an album, they are fine, but looming in the shadows of the Horne Legacy, they pale in comparison.

No More Monika (Music Thoughts: Windmills, Monika Ryan)

Monika-Ryan-Windmills-1400Who doesn’t love the Alan and Marilyn Bergman Songbook? And any record that celebrates it deserves to be heard.  Monika Ryan’s ‘Windmills’  is a collection of these songs, and I appreciate her effort, but I have to say I can’t remember the last time I listened to a singer and disagree with how she mostly interpret songs. ‘A Love Like Ours’ is one of my favorite Bergman songs of all time and I don’t think I have heard such a bad version of it till now. Her careless lyric interpretation strips all the tenderness and poignancy of the song’s lyrics. Look, I know that she probably fancies herself a jazz singer, and sure, this album shows more ;rhythmic’ takes of these songs, but let’s just say I probably will never spin this record again. Her versions just do not appeal to me, and actually, if I may be honest, I think she does not give these songs any justice. More power to those who enjoy this record, but for me, it’s a HARD pass.

What Of Rich (Music Thoughts: I Wish You Love, Rich Howard)

rhNever judge anything by its cover. I took one look at the album cover of Rich Howard’s ‘I Wish You Love.’ and thought to myself, I probably will not liek this album. I don’t gravitate towards male singers, and yes, I admit, I judged. But about three songs into the album, I thought, well, this isn’t bad at all. This album of standards is sung competently, and tenderly (perhaps that’s why I like it)  and the choice of songs well thought out. I liked his wistful title track of ‘I Wish You Love,’ and I don’t know why, I am liking all renditions of ‘An Affair To Remember’ lately.  Curiously, though, there doesn’t seem to be a lot of information on the internet about Mr. Howard. He doesn’t have a website, and I think he is New York based (there’s a cryptic comment somewhere that his album was assembled by New York City musicians)  But, I like a lto of what I have heard, and this is available on Spotify, so go on and listen there!

Swiss Swing (Music Thoughts: Introducing…Coco Favre, Coco Favre)

cd1Coco Favre has a great name, and to be honest, that’s what attracted me to listen to her album first before anyone else on my pile. I researched her and find that she is originally from Switzerland, and is now living in New Zealand. That’s a long way to travel and I wonder why she moved – for love? for family? In any event, when I first listened to the album, I was a little underwhelmed. Well, bored is more like it. She has a fine enough voice, but nothing about it called out to me. But on second spin (I usually give a second chance) I see that her strength is on swinging tunes. She definitely has a great sense of rhythm, as evidenced in her versions of ‘Down With Love,’ and ;It Don’t Mean A Thing.’ I am guessing she is also great live, as I get some of that energy on her disc. But the originals still put me to sleep. Half of this is okay, the other half I couldn’t get through and her disc, titled ‘Introducing…Coco Favre’ is a lukewarm intro.

Her Eyes (Music Thoughts: Eyes Wide Open, Jamie Shaw)

b_W1sicmVzaXplIiw1MDBdLFsibWF4Il0sWyJ3ZSJdXQ==In her album ‘Eyes Wide Open,’ Jamie Shew chronicles, by song, her twenty year relationship with her husband, who succumbed to cancer. And concept-wise, it is an interesting concept, where she starts the album with ‘Get Out Of My Head,’ to ‘Easy To Love,’ merging to ‘The Answer Is You,’ to I guess the process of heartbreak, ending with the title track.

If only I liked the arrangements and the singing, which to my ears sounded so generic and banal to the point that it gave me a (literal) headache. In my opinion, this is one of those cases wherein the idea is more interesting than the execution, and it really makes me sad.

Tell Me From Tel Aviv (Music Thoughts: Echo Of A Heartbeat, Tamuz Nissim)

tamTamuz Nissim is from Tel Aviv and she has released a jazz album. Singers who sing standards always fascinate me because it shows that these songs touch everyone all over the world. But I also read that Nissim has been living in New York since 2015. Perhaps that is why I don’t really hear any of her ethnicity in this album. ‘Echo Of A Heartbeat’ sounds just like another generic jazz album, and those are the worst kinds. I honestly would rather hear one with bad qualities than these ones that you can never distinguish from one another. She doesn’t have a bad voice – it’s thin and reedy but malleable. She sings with a quartet led on piano by James Weidman. Her standards, like ‘Just Squeeze Me,’ and ‘What A Little Moonlight Can Do,’ aren’t bad. They are just worse by being boring. And she can be self-indulgent by inserting some of her tuneless originals. This could have been something, but now it’s just blah.