For Nancy (Music Thoughts: A Sleepin’ Bee, Lauren Kinhan)

LaurenKinhan_SleepinBee_coverI was first familiar with Lauren Kinhan as a member of the jazz vocal group New York Voices years ago. So I was glad to see I was getting a ‘familiar’ voice when I started listening to her album ‘A Sleepin’ Bee.’  And I have got to be honest, I was doubly lured by the album cover, which replicates those mid-century pop/jazz albums. And, even more exciting, this album is a tribute album of sorts to the great Nancy Wilson, one of my all-time favorites.

Kinhan sings competently, and ably backed by competent musicians. And of course, the Wilson-inspired repertoire is great, but the album just left me cold. It bored me. And it’s not her, it’s me. It just did not agree with me, her musical choices sound but not my cup of tea. I am sure a lot of people will enjoy this, and I fault myself for not being one of them.

No Need To Stew Stu (Music Thoughts, Out Of The Blue, Stu Mac)

coverStu Mac, with his sleeve tattoo, would not be out of place in a rock band. If you told me he was a member of the Stone Temple Pilots (since I don’t really know any of STP’s members)  I would totally believe you.  As per his website, Mac is a seasoned performer, and even studied under famed jazz singer Ranee Lee.

I find he straddles the line between pop and jazz. There are some non-jazz songs here, and he does those very well.  When he switches to the jazz tracks, though, he is just as good. I even find him injecting blue-eyed soul on ‘My Buddy,’ and ‘It’s Only A Paper Moon.’ I guess I shouldn’t be pigeonholing people, but he gives a lot of different ‘sounds’ on this album, ‘Out Of The Blue.’ He sings assuredly, he knows what he wants in his sound.


His Movies (Music Thoughts: At The Movies, Gary Williams)

FrontGary Williams is a young singer from England who is enjoying some success as a crooner. I have to admit, I had to google him.  When I first listened to the album, I told myself, he has big band sensibilities and lo and be hold, he has been singing with the BBC Big Band in London. Williams has a great sense of swing and that is evident in his new album, ‘At The Movies,’ which consists of song from movies.

He has great taste in his selections. Some weird choices. For example, ‘Spooky,’ which I only know from my beloved Peggy Lee, apparently was featured in the film ‘Lock Stock and Barrel’  He does a good version of that here. He skews ‘younger,’ with choices such as ‘How Deep is Your Love,’ and ‘Both Sides Now.’  His voice isn’t unappealing and, on record,  is fine but not too memorable. Perhaps if I saw him performing it would stamp a little more in my memory.


Here Comes Hiraga (Vintage, Marcia Hiraga)

FolderMarica Hiraga is a Japanese jazz singer whose name I have encountered numerous times over the years. But somehow someway I never really appreciated any of her previous albums before. They all seemed generic, though admittedly I never really gave it a real chance. So what I did was sat down and listened and paid attention to the music.

Voila! This is a delicious little (or maybe big?) album that engaged me. Even i Japanese and with an accent, this album engaged me and I felt Hiraga had total command of the lyrics as she navigated the creative arrangements. I especially loved the take on Cole Porter’s ‘So In Love’ as I felt like she was running to the one she is on love with, which I think matches the feeling of your heart beating as you think of the one you are in love with. And that’s just the highlight. Splendid performance also highlight other tracks like ‘As Time Goes By,’ and the fun ‘Golden Earrings.’

Lady Joyce (Music Thoughts: Lady Be Good, Joyce Yuille)

joyceyI was reading Joyce Yuille’s bio on her webpage and in there it says that her all-time favorite singer is Phyllis Hyman.  That made me want to pull out and listen to her new album ‘Lady Be God’ right away.’ I was curious if her ‘sound’ is similar to Hyman’s.

If only. My initial reaction? Meh, she sounds like any other young person singing jazz standards. And I don’t even know her age, and maybe what stuck with me is that she started as a model and ended up singing. I played the album and I started to really ‘hear’ it. She sings with a lot of subtlety. There’s a wonderful ‘Beautiful Love’ that’s sounds like a slow-burn Summer Afternoon. But, something’s still off, it’s still short of feeling. I blame this on…youth. I am confident, though, as she has a lot of potential. She’ll get there/

From Sweden To Canada (Music Thoughts: From This Side, Johanna Sillanpaa)

Johanna Sillanpaa - From This Side (2017)Is it a good thing that every time I turn around I see a new jazz vocal album being released? Or is it because it’s much easier nowadays to make one, some even done at home? I don’t mean to minimize albums nowadays or referring to what I am writing about now, but just musing…

Calgary-based Johanna Silanpaa has a new album called ‘From This Side.’  I wondered where her name came from, so I googled her and found that she was born in Sweden, and I  thought it all makes sense now. The Swedish love jazz.

And she has a sweet voice that makes a nice counterpoint to the swinging arrangements here. When I saw that about half of the album were her originals, I secretly groaned. But you know what? They’re not bad, although I would probably have to listen to the songs more to fully appreciate them.  For me, she soars when she sings standards. She nails the irony in ‘Everything I’ve Go Belongs To You’ and the joy in ‘Blue Skies.’ I will definitely look for he next foray.

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.