Sutton Screen (Music Thoughts: Screen Play, The Tierney Sutton Band)

TierneySuttonI never ever judge a Tierney Sutton album with a first or second listen. i find that I appreciate her stuff as it marinates more. I don’t always ‘get’ what she is trying to do, and at times even vehemently dislike it, but more often than not I warm up, and even learn to love them. Again, that is the case with ‘Screen Play,’  the new album by the Tierney Sutton Band, consisting of pianist Christian Jacob, bassists Trey Henry and Kevin Axt, and drummer Ray Brinket.

The album is a collection of songs from films, a familiar concept that could ever be mundane or inspired. Song selection wise, Sutton goes for the eclectic. I was surprised to see not one but two songs from ‘Grease,’ – a no-fills retelling of ‘Hopelessly Devoted To You’ that is the antithesis of the original Olivia Newton John version, and a trippy ‘You’re The One That I Want.’ I don’t know if the latter really works – it’s much too contrived of an arrangement for me – but darn it if I can’t stop listening to it. Her album with Alan Bergamn on ‘How Do You Keep the Music Playing’ i seriously heartfelt, and on the medlette of ‘Moon River/Calling You’ she found two song of waiting and wanting that fit perfectly together. But some tracks are just misses for me. Draining ‘The Sound of Silence’ of its granola character makes it dishonest sounding which is a contrast from its lyrics, and ‘Diamonds Are A Girl’s Best Friends’ didn’t sound like a song about diamonds in her scat-filled vocal flourish. But when she is good, she’s fantastic, and when she finds darkness in songs – like’s Sondheim’s ‘Goodbye For Now’ – she is inimitable.

Emotions In Abstract (Music Thoughts: Portrait, Greta Matassa)

NYkojRI hadn’t heard about Greta Matassa in a while, and no wonder, since it has been eleven years since she has released an her album. Her new album, ‘Portraits’ is pretty good, and I had forgotten how an appealing a singer she can be. She has spoken about her interpretations as being abstract, and I get her comparison, and I mostly don’t like when singers get too ‘out there,’ but she knows when to pull back and when to go off. My favorite track is ‘The One Who Loves The Most/Softly,’ probably because I love the latter song (which I know from Lena Horne) She has great eclectic style – from Ennio Morrriconne to Bob Dylan to Duke Ellington. I have to be in a mood sometimes to play this album, but when I am, it fits my bill sensationally.

Back To the Racks (Music Thoughts: Sings Bachrach, Laura Avanzolini)

LauraOne of the great things about the music of Burt Bachrach is his intricate melodies. There is something great about the way his music swoops and sways, and whenever an artist sings his songs, I always look at the way they navigate themselves in his song. Laura Avanzolini has a new album called ‘Sings Bachrach’ and for most of these songs, she finds ‘different’ ways of interpreting these songs. FAIL. She at times goes against the melodies, and…they just don’t sound good to me. At times it feels like she is trying too hard, and the rest of the time she veers too much away from the melody that I instantly get a headache. I very rarely give a very negative review but seriously i cannot find anything redeeming about this at all. Skip this!

Church Hymns (Music Thoughts: Can’t Get Out Of This Mood, Beverley Church Hogan)

61RzAZiB1FL._SX355_I always love it when a singer sings and you can tell right away that they know and understand the song they are singing. Beverley Church Hogan is apparently 84 years young, and you can feel every one of those years in the way she sings these songs. There are some pitch problems, for sure, but that is quickly overcome by the way she tells a story with each song, and each note she sings sounds authentic. I liked her versions of songs like ‘Wait Till You See Him,’ and even if I normally don’t like it when singers improvise lyrics on standards, the way she added her own words on ‘Time After Time’ was just fine by me.

Soul From Sweden (Music Thoughts: My Billie, Cajsa Zerhouni)

71dIc5BVbPL._SS500_Such is the power of Billie Holiday. Swedish jazz singer Cajsa Zerhouni has an EP oy called ‘My Billie’ and it is a great tribute to the gardenia’d one. Zerhouni couldn’t sound more different than Holiday, but she sings with as much soul and feeling. BIllie’s repertoire is handled here delicately, but not without Zerhouni putting her own personal stamp on these songs. My favorite is a hot house version of ‘Crazy He Calls Me’ that has so much longing and wanting that it registers just as good as the original. All in all, this is a great small record worth checking out for jazz vocal fans.

Vickie Vocals (Music Thoughts: Under The Influence, Vickie Van Dyke)

61Bwvzt4zQL._SS500_I was listening to ‘Under The Influence’ by Vickie Van Dyke, and there was a certain something I noticed in her singing – there seemed to be a lot of passion here, and I could feel instantly her love of the material.

Then I read the ‘back story’ of the album. Apparently, she recorded this as a tribute to her mother. who had recently gone to hospice. She was struck by the kindness of the people she encountered there and pledged all the sales of the album to go to the facility, Hospice Wellington, in Ontario Canada. She also recorded this a tribute to her mother, who introduced her to the Great American Songbook. After learning this, I loved the album even more. Her love for the music fills every second of the album. While she doesn’t posses the most technically proficient, but I like it’s smoky and husky quality. And there is certainly care in her lyric interpretation. My favorite track is ‘Let’s Make The Most Of A Beautiful Thing,’ which I know from Nancy Wilson. her slightly quivering interpretation gives it a lot of gravitas. I don’t know why I have been so enamoured by that song of late, perhaps from where my life is right now? But truly, the rest of the album is a good listen.

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.