Jane at Twenty (Music Thoughts: Come What May, Jane Monheit)

Jane Monheit’s newest album, ‘Come What May’ is a celebration of her two decades since her breakthrough debut album. And it’s a perfect way to celebrate what she is about. Monehit has always straddled the line between jazz and cabaret singing – she has the instrumental jazz ear combined with a sensitivity to great lyric interpretation. And her full supple voice is full of richness that can sometimes be too intoxicating. But, she is never ever boring. Take, for example, her version here of ‘My Funny Valentine.’ This is a song that has bene sung by every winger in the world, and to be frank, very few people get it right. Monheit nails all the emotions here – you hear every wonderful Larry Hart lyric and the story she tells is as heartbreaking as the song was meant to convey. I found myself hanging on and listening to every word of the song – and trust me when I say that I have heard this tune hundreds of millions of times by now. And I can’t remember the last time I paid attention to anyone else singing ‘The Man Who Got Away’ by a singer whose name was not Judy Garland. Monheit’s version gives an almost opposite energy to the original – it’s cool laid back but you still feel the love of something and someone going awry, and it’s just as unforgettable. Some would argue that Monheit’s jazz licks are much too planned and rehearsed to be ‘authentic’ but who cares? There is enough honesty in her interpretation to always win me over.

And Her Trombone (Music Thoughts: Standard, Aubrey Logan)

Aubrey Logan’s new album ‘Standard’ is unique in a lot of senses. First fo all, she is a jazz singer who also plays the trombone so a good number of the tracks re instrumental. But she also sings, and she has a very raw technique. It can get loud and screechy, but not in an unpleasant manner. I like it that she goes ‘there.’ It’s refreshing and can sometimes be abrasive, but in my opinion it’s interesting. She has a great repertoire, from standards (‘Here’s that Rainy Day’) to R & B (‘Save Your Love For Me’) to disco (‘MacArthur Park’) to opera (‘Largo at Factotum’) And you know what? It’s all good.

Song and War (Music Thoughts: As Time Goes By, Sarah Spiegel)

I love the concept of ‘As Time Goes By,’ a na album of standards by Sarah Spiegel. I know nothing of MS. Spiegel, and looking at her resume on her website, it seems that she has done a lot of acting work. This album is a collection of songs from World War II, and she has a nice clear voice that gives great impression of longing and hope. (Apparently she does a one woman show with the same theme, titled ‘Through The Perilous Fight’) The songs have mostly big-band arrangements, and authentically recreates the sound of the time. It’s a great listen.

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.