No More Monika (Music Thoughts: Windmills, Monika Ryan)

Monika-Ryan-Windmills-1400Who doesn’t love the Alan and Marilyn Bergman Songbook? And any record that celebrates it deserves to be heard.  Monika Ryan’s ‘Windmills’  is a collection of these songs, and I appreciate her effort, but I have to say I can’t remember the last time I listened to a singer and disagree with how she mostly interpret songs. ‘A Love Like Ours’ is one of my favorite Bergman songs of all time and I don’t think I have heard such a bad version of it till now. Her careless lyric interpretation strips all the tenderness and poignancy of the song’s lyrics. Look, I know that she probably fancies herself a jazz singer, and sure, this album shows more ;rhythmic’ takes of these songs, but let’s just say I probably will never spin this record again. Her versions just do not appeal to me, and actually, if I may be honest, I think she does not give these songs any justice. More power to those who enjoy this record, but for me, it’s a HARD pass.

What Of Rich (Music Thoughts: I Wish You Love, Rich Howard)

rhNever judge anything by its cover. I took one look at the album cover of Rich Howard’s ‘I Wish You Love.’ and thought to myself, I probably will not liek this album. I don’t gravitate towards male singers, and yes, I admit, I judged. But about three songs into the album, I thought, well, this isn’t bad at all. This album of standards is sung competently, and tenderly (perhaps that’s why I like it)  and the choice of songs well thought out. I liked his wistful title track of ‘I Wish You Love,’ and I don’t know why, I am liking all renditions of ‘An Affair To Remember’ lately.  Curiously, though, there doesn’t seem to be a lot of information on the internet about Mr. Howard. He doesn’t have a website, and I think he is New York based (there’s a cryptic comment somewhere that his album was assembled by New York City musicians)  But, I like a lto of what I have heard, and this is available on Spotify, so go on and listen there!

Swiss Swing (Music Thoughts: Introducing…Coco Favre, Coco Favre)

cd1Coco Favre has a great name, and to be honest, that’s what attracted me to listen to her album first before anyone else on my pile. I researched her and find that she is originally from Switzerland, and is now living in New Zealand. That’s a long way to travel and I wonder why she moved – for love? for family? In any event, when I first listened to the album, I was a little underwhelmed. Well, bored is more like it. She has a fine enough voice, but nothing about it called out to me. But on second spin (I usually give a second chance) I see that her strength is on swinging tunes. She definitely has a great sense of rhythm, as evidenced in her versions of ‘Down With Love,’ and ;It Don’t Mean A Thing.’ I am guessing she is also great live, as I get some of that energy on her disc. But the originals still put me to sleep. Half of this is okay, the other half I couldn’t get through and her disc, titled ‘Introducing…Coco Favre’ is a lukewarm intro.

Her Eyes (Music Thoughts: Eyes Wide Open, Jamie Shaw)

b_W1sicmVzaXplIiw1MDBdLFsibWF4Il0sWyJ3ZSJdXQ==In her album ‘Eyes Wide Open,’ Jamie Shew chronicles, by song, her twenty year relationship with her husband, who succumbed to cancer. And concept-wise, it is an interesting concept, where she starts the album with ‘Get Out Of My Head,’ to ‘Easy To Love,’ merging to ‘The Answer Is You,’ to I guess the process of heartbreak, ending with the title track.

If only I liked the arrangements and the singing, which to my ears sounded so generic and banal to the point that it gave me a (literal) headache. In my opinion, this is one of those cases wherein the idea is more interesting than the execution, and it really makes me sad.

Tell Me From Tel Aviv (Music Thoughts: Echo Of A Heartbeat, Tamuz Nissim)

tamTamuz Nissim is from Tel Aviv and she has released a jazz album. Singers who sing standards always fascinate me because it shows that these songs touch everyone all over the world. But I also read that Nissim has been living in New York since 2015. Perhaps that is why I don’t really hear any of her ethnicity in this album. ‘Echo Of A Heartbeat’ sounds just like another generic jazz album, and those are the worst kinds. I honestly would rather hear one with bad qualities than these ones that you can never distinguish from one another. She doesn’t have a bad voice – it’s thin and reedy but malleable. She sings with a quartet led on piano by James Weidman. Her standards, like ‘Just Squeeze Me,’ and ‘What A Little Moonlight Can Do,’ aren’t bad. They are just worse by being boring. And she can be self-indulgent by inserting some of her tuneless originals. This could have been something, but now it’s just blah.

Nellie’s Florals (Music Thoughts: Sister Orchid, Nellie McKay)

NellieMcKay-768x768I hadn’t thought of Nellie McKay in a long while. I remember when she first came out she was a critic’s darling, and I distinctly remember her voice was similar to Blossom Dearie’s. I recently found out she has a new album of standards called ‘Sister Orchid’ and decided to put it on the playlist I listen to on my daily walks. I found that whenever a track from the album came on, I relished it and paid attention. So, I went ahead and listened to the album itself.

And it’s an interesting one, for sure. Her voice is not as delicate as Dearie’s. Oddly enough, it reminds me more of Peggy Lee’s, especially in her ‘My Romance.’ which seems to be channeling Lee’s. This is a very atmospheric album – the arrangements are all over the place yet the intimacy of her singing makes the whole album cohesive. I felt like I was in a room with just me and her singing to me, and I heard and understood every single word she was singing. She means these lyrics to her core. I never felt the words to ‘The Nearness Of You’ more, for example. This is a late-night album, akin to a Julie London one. I don’t know if I love all of it, to be honest, (the abrupt change int one in ‘Willow Weep For Me’ is jarring) but I know I pay attention when it’s playing. That’s more than I can say for any jazz vocal album I have listened to lately.

If Nina Knew (Music Thoughts: Abiah sings Nina, Abiah)

abiah_sings_ninaVery few people try to tackle the Nina Simone songbook only because she sings her songs with such a distinct style that you more than often just try to imitate her. Abiah tries his hand on this on ‘Abiah sings Nina.’

I wish I liked it more. He certainly has captured the Nina Simone ‘mood,’ and has chosen a great section of her repertoire – the tender, love-filled Nina – and that’s a surprise, as I had thought he would cover her more ‘political’ songs. But I heard more Nina than Abiah here, and I really wanted to know Abiah the singer, since I really don’t know much about him. I love the slow and tender sound of the album – his ‘Wild Is The Wind’ is going on my favorites playlist – but the album just made me want to Nina Simone more. I guess that is not the worst thing in the world – everyone needs to know Nina – but I wanted something more original, and was disappointed. aboiahnina