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Straight No Chaser - A Jazz Show

Welcome to Straight No Chaser, the Award-winning Podcast hosted by Jeffrey Siegel

Aug 12, 2011

Do you know how in the summer you tend to put off things you do IN the house in order to take care of things OUT of the house? Like weeding or sitting on the deck, listening to the water rush in the ponds, and drinking a cold one? Well, I've done my share of that outdoor stuff lately, and I've neglected piles of CDs.

This podcast takes a step to rectify the situation. Here are selections from a bunch of releases from jazz singers that I thought you might like to hear about. Not all are good, and not all are really jazz. But you be the judge, as I play from

Rene Marie – “Drift Away” from Voice of My Beautiful Country. Few singers of either sex produce work with the sweeping grandiosity of Rene Marie. After the 2008 flap where she sang the words to “the black national anthem”, “Life Ev’ry Voice and Sing” rather than those of “The Star Spangled Banner”, an artistic response was clearly in the offing. Her latest release attempts to do just that, and is called by her “my love song to America”. It successfully reinterprets and recreates music from the American soul from  “O Shenandoah” and “My Country ‘Tis of Thee” and jazz and rock standards. This unique version of the Dobie Gray hit – one of my favorite songs of all time – finds her backed by Kevin Bales on piano, Rodney Jenkins on bass and Quentin Baxter on drums.

Mitch Winehouse – “Rush of Love to the Heart” from Rush of Love. Lost in the death of singer Amy Winehouse is the release of her father’s debut CD as a big-band singer, Rush of Love. He comes across as an old style crooner, with fine production and song contribution from long-time Winehouse buddy (and prolific songwriter) Tony Hiller. If his voice is a bit thin, the band is not, and the combination makes for a fun set.

Lea Salonga – “The Sing Medley: Sing a Song / Tomorrow / Matchmaker, Matchmaker” from The Journey So Far.  Broadway and film star Lea Salonga recorded this CD live at the Café Carlyle in New York, backed by four piece band (Larry Yurman,  piano; Jack Cavari, guitar; John Miller, bass; and Dave Ratajczach, drums) in an attempt to broaden her already considerable musical base. As a cabaret show, it’s quite enjoyable, but as a serious jazz performance it comes up a bit short. The arrangements simply aren’t up to snuff, and Ms. Salonga – who has personality galore – has yet to show she has the pipes for this kind of music.

Andrea Wood – “I Only Have Eyes For You” from Dhyana. This CD is a real treat for fans of vocalists looking to do something different with familiar material. Ms. Wood is an ace in turning phrases, playing with time changes, and re-arranging standards (she wrote the arrangements). Check out this reggae-tinged cover of the Harry Warren-Al Dubin chestnut, made even more authentic given her vocal work in Kingston with The Fab Five of Jamaica a few years back. The CD also features surprising takes on “My Favorite Things” and “Someday My Prince Will Come”. She juggles studio musicians throughout the CD, but guitarist John Lee shines on this track. I look forward to more from this up and coming performer.

Jocelyn Medina – “April 4th  from We Are Water. Possessed with a voice that recalls Flora Purim, Ms. Medina fuses Brazilian, Spanish, African and Indian sounds with a jazz heart. The CD is all original material, all of which is strong, and she is ably backed by Rodrigo Ursais on tenor sax and flutes, Kritjan Randalu on piano, Aidan Carroll on bass and Rodeck Janke on drums and percussion. This wordless number is an eye-opener.

Oleg Frish and the Patrick Williams Big Band – “A Lot of Living To Do” from Bring Me Sunshine. In Russia, Frish is a household name as the host of “Time Out”, the Entertainment Tonight” of Russian television. For his debut as a singer, he enlists Patrick Williams, a former arranger-conductor for the likes of Frank Sinatra to cut a CD of selections from the Great American Songbook, including a few rarely recorded (“I’m In Love”, the title track). The charts and the band are top notch, but as can be heard on this Charles Strouse classic, the singer leaves a lot to be desired.

Steve Lipman – “Come Fly With Me” from There’s A Song In My Heart. A singing dentist? Yes, that’s what we have here. Nothing new or memorable here. But no pain in the molar either.

Amy London – “Here’s To Life” from Let’s Fly. This is an exception collection of songs, from Brazilian standards (“This Happy Madness”) to lesser performed jazz classics (“Duke Ellington’s Sound of Love”) and the ubiquitous Joni Mitchell cover (“All I Want”). What makes the CD worth repeated listenings is the way Ms. London can wring emotion from a tune, either with new phrasings or impeccable timing. This tune, a Sondheim-esque winner with a memorable delivery by Ms. London, is made all the better by a complimentary solo by guitarist Roni Ben-Hur.