From Madrid With Love (Music Thoughts: ‘Trav’lin’ Light’ Mayte Alguacil

coverI did not know diddly squat about Mayte Alguacil before listening to her new album ‘Trav’lin’ Light’  and most times I prefer it that way, so I won’t have preconceived biases. But after I heard Alguacil’s album, I wanted – needed – to find out more about her. This is a solid album, and eve though her singing is not the most unique, she sings with love and with a great energy that I couldn’t help but fall in love with her. Even the repertoire of old chestnuts seemed uninspired at first is really just fine – I sometimes am hard to please because I get fatigued.

Alguacil was born in Madrid but looks like she is now based in Barcelona. I love both places so maybe I warmed to her right away? She sings with a slight Spanish accent ant I have always said I love that because it just gives the singer’s presentation a personal touch. My favorite track in this album is ‘Everything Happens To Me,’ which she sings with a less playful arrangement, and gave the song a little more depth.  The title track seems a little too slow burn for me, but her ‘I Was Doing Alright’ cooks with great jazz tempo. I have listened to this album four times now and in each spin I have discovered little nuances that I like.  She is a good fine – I am following her now on Spotify.

Jazz From The Young (Music Thoughts: When I Fall In Love, Jessica Young)

downloadOn Jessica Young’s Soundcloud page (here) the blurb for her have her described as  “a little bit Sade, a lot Billie Holiday, a dash of Janis Joplin.”  Tall orders, for sure. As I listen to her album ‘When I Fall In Love,” I can say I don’t get the Sade at all (on the album cover she looks a little bit, maybe) and there is no Joplin rawness, but there does seem to a bit of Holiday mannerisms.  What I do hear is someone young with good musicality, if a bit green on lyrical interpretation. That’s not necessarily a bad thing – she will obtain life experiences and her singing will deepen, and richer. Maybe she will even shed her Billie mannerisms and vocal stylings which sometimes sound forced because she wants to sound ‘jazzy.’  But she isn’t bad at all here, and shows a lot of promise.  For sure, I can sense that she has great affinity for this music and will evolve on her own. But for now, not just yet.

Buczek Fenced (Music Thoughts: Ella Lives, Vivian Buczek)

405224-350x350In case you were wondering why there have been a lot of Ella Fitzgerald tributes lately, it’s because this year would have been her 100th birthday. Swedish jazz singer has released a new album called ‘Ella Lives’ wherein she sings ten songs associated with the Queen of Jazz. Buczek, to be honest, is mostly unknown to me, but I am not on the up and up on Swedish jazz singers anyway. She has a nice reedy voice, but her style is definitely more rigid than Ella’s. I like her most when she has room to sing within the arrangements. Martin Sjöstedt apparently did the arrangements here, and some are too mannered for my taste, trying too much to be jazz than tuneful. But in songs like ‘Tenderly,’ and ‘The Very Thought Of You,’ for example, Buczek gets to exercise her appealing vocals.  And even in others like ‘Misty,’ she soars. Although she doesn’t sing this particular Cole Porter song here, I wanna tell her musicians: Don’t Fence Her In.

Yorkshire Treasure (Music Thoughts, Unphotographable, Emma Nabarro-Steel)

41haAAcrGTL._SS500It’s always a good day when I discover a new singer, and I recently found one. Her name is Emma Nabarro-Steel, and information on the internet about her is kind of scarce. This is all I have got about her.

Jazz vocalist Emma Nabarro-Steel has spent almost a decade performing and recording jazz standards with many of the UK’s finest jazz musicians. An improvising vocalist and instrumentalist, she has been described as a “a jazz singing natural” and “a fresh jazz singer who floats a song lyric without losing her grip on it” (Manchester evening news). Born in Nottingham, UK, and now based in Leeds, BBC Radio 4 bestowed on her the proud title of “Yorkshire’s Ella Fitzgerald” after a 2006 performance on Woman’s Hour.

Maybe I love her more because she is British, as I love all things Anglo, but really in this, her 2006 album, what I hear is a fresh-sounding singer with great flair and also a keen sense of lyric interpretation. She weaves her way into various chestnuts – ‘I Get Along Without You Very Well,’ ‘I Fall In Love Too Easily,’ ‘Just Squeeze Me,’ and I swear it feels like I am hearing those songs for the first time. She sings ‘My Funny Valentine’ softly, as if a prayer, and it gives the song more tenderness. I wish I had some more information, like who did the splendid arrangements, for example. I don’t even know if this album is easy to find, but I assure you it is worth hunting.

For Quiet Nights (Music Thoughts, Turn Up The Quiet, Diana Krall)

MI0004192319Whenever I listen to Diana Krall, I remember my old and dear friend Joel. He hated her music, and thought she was all flash with nothing to show for it. He’s somewhat correct – just look at the album cover of her newest album, ‘Turn Up The Quiet,” and look at its cover, and you can see she spent a huge amount of effort for the album cover. I never totally agreed with my friend Joel – I have always enjoyed her music over the years, but I do get where he was coming from.

Her new album is an all-standards affair, and it’s nice to see her go back to form in this one. Again, look at the cover and you can see what she is trying to convey – a modern sense of nostalgia, with vinyl records casually and artfully placed. This is an album that’s is probably meant to be romantic – the arrangements are soft (she only lightly swings at the most)  and her vocals barely register over a whisper. Backed by a trio, quartet, and quintet, at times it reminded me of Julie London, and I wonder if that was intentional. I liked some tracks – her ‘Night and Day’ is cooing cool at its finest, and when I saw ‘Sway,” I thought it would be a generic version of that song, and I was surprised she slowed it down, and found some meaning in its pop high. But there are also tracks that made me a little mad – like she kept on repeating the phrase ‘isn’t it romantic’ on that song, and did not end all verses with ‘Isn’t it Romance,?’ ruining not only the rhyme, but the whole point of that song (I can see my friend Joel’s ears flaring up)  But all in all, this is a harmless baby-making album that I suspect will be popular with a lot of people. Turn off your lights, light a Diptyque candle, and play this to ‘turn up the quiet’ and it will be a good curated experience.

Your Voicemail Sings (Music Thoughts: …feels like Love, Marsha Bertenetti)

FrontMarsha Bertenetti, also known as Marsha Graham, is known as “The Voicemail Queen” because hers is the voice you hear when you get a wrong number. You know, the one that says “The number you called has been disconnected.”  According to her bio page on her website, she has guested in a number of talk shows become some dubbed by the press as “The Voice America Loves To Hate.”

I don’t hate her album “…feels like Love.” Bertenetti has obviously a pleasant singing voice. But it is kind of bland, and I am instantly bored by it. Her style is relaxed, which doesn’t help. I mean, she sings in a nice and pleasant manner, and would probably do well at a hotel lounge if she has great personality, but on record is just too vanilla. For example, ‘Sorry Seems To Be The Hardest Word’ is a mine for a lot of expression, but she sings it here like she is teaching how to bake chocolate chip cookies. She titled her album “…feelis like Love” but I don’t feel anything.

Not My Moon (Music Thoughts: Beyond The Moon, Kristin Korb)

kristinkorb_beyondthemoon_dbIs it a good or bad sign that I didn’t recognize that ‘Beyond The Moon’ is a Johnny mercer tribute album? I don’t know, but what I do know is that I have tried – in vain – to like this new album by Kristin Korb. I have been listening to it for a couple of months now on my iPod,  and I let tracks play randomly on shuffle with other albums, but nothing has stuck to me. For some reason, my iPod keeps on choosing ‘Jeepers Creepers,’ and while I do appreciate its jazzy arrangement, I find my mind wandering a couple of seconds into it. As a matter of fact, there’s just something in me that got bored with the record, and I know it’s not the musicians’ fault (all stellar)  I just can’t appreciate the meandering jazz arrangement of ‘Midnight Sun’ for the original ‘Beyond The Moon’ with its discordant, non-melodic stance. I have a lot of respect for Ms. Korb, I just don’t connect with her music.