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.

Do You Know Gloria? (Music Thoughts: For All We Know, Gloria Reuben and Marty Ashby)

Gloria-Rueben-Marty-Ashby-For-All-We-Know-432x432I am an absolute sucker for voice and guitar albums that I cannot help but love Gloria Reuben’s album ‘For All We Know,’ with guitarist Marty Ashby.  I know and remember her from television series E.R. even though I never really watched that show, I knew that she sang jazz so I was looking forward to hearing this album, which was released Valentine’s Day (that seems like so long ago)

There is a good set of songs here, and Reuben’s breathy vocals match them well. Ashby’s guitar is exquisite, and I find myself listening to him on some tracks. The album is very introspective, and in these times is a welcome treat. It’s a bit of a ‘late night’ feel, though, and did not really match by morning walk to work.

The She In Our Lives (Music Thoughts: The Women Who Raised Me, Kandace Springs)

KS_TWWRM_cover_re_1024xI have to admit I am new to Kandace Springs, although I shouldn’t have – she exemplifies the kind of singer I listen to and love. And she must be very good, as she is recording for Blue Note Records. She titled her album ‘The Women Who Raised Me,’ and above all, it is a fantastic title as I feel the same way towards the same woman she is referencing. This is obviously a tribute album to some of her favorite female vocalists – from Ella and Nina and Billie to more ‘modern’ singers ones like Sade and Bonnie Raitt.  She has some superstar guests in here, like Christian McBride on bass and David Sanborn on saxophone, so you know she ain’t playing. Springs has a full strong voice but not without some vulnerability, and I can tell she loves these songs, that she has lived through them, and understand the lyrics she is singing. I love her ‘The Nearness of You’ and on my Spotify app they play this with a video of her playing the piano and it enhances the aural experience. And I consider her a kindred spirit by picking to cover  ‘Pearls,’ my favorite Sade song of all time. I was taken by her slow-burn ‘Killing Me Softly’ and I hear she does a great live version of ‘First Time I Ever Saw Your Face’ on her live sets. I think this is one of those albums where I will find layers with each re-listening. I cannot wait for new revelations,

The Sound Of Elegance (Music Thoughts: Seven Elegant Ballads, Hiromi Kanda)

swSometimes all you need is seven songs to make a mark. Hiromi Kanda titled her new album ‘Seven Elegant Ballads,’ and it’s not false advertising. It only takes a second to impress me (or not) and I definitely was enamored by her voice quickly. She sings these seven songs (five standards and two originals) with soulful honesty that you cannot help but be taken by her music right away. Her husband, Yusuke Hoguchi has crafted classic arrangement that showcase these songs and her voice impeccably. And that voice – so fully soulful that you know she knows she feels every lyric of these songs even though (I assume) that English is not her first language. Emotion really is universal, it seems. I like that her ‘Smile’ is not too melancholy – there is an uplifting message in her version. And ‘Moonlight in Vermont’ sounds like a song you hear as you look into a big moon. Surprisingly, I even like the originals – ‘Days of Yesterday’ is a pleasant surprise (I read it was a hit for her years ago)  Don’t sleep on these seven ballads.