Sheila Jordan, the musical descendent of icon Charlie Parker and an ever-burning flame among jazz singers, pioneered the bass-voice duo in 1977 with the SteepleChase album Sheila, in collaboration with bassist Arild Andersen. She went on to solidify the bass-voice exchange as her signature sound, most notably with Harvie Swartz (Harvey S) and Cameron Brown, producing multiple recordings and scores of performances throughout the ensuing decades. Today, the heir apparent of these musical duo explorations is singer Kavita Shah.
Pianist/composer Monika Herzig opens her March 2018 album SHEROES with a tribute to her mentor, the late Third Stream composer David Baker. You can hear the Baker influence on “Time Again, D.B.” as Herzig and the SHEROES band move in and out of different meters, blaze through intricate solos, and sync up effortlessly on the tune’s compelling melodic theme. What you can’t hear is that all of the compositions on the release are written, arranged, and/or played by women—the female heroes (or “sheroes”) who collaborated with Herzig on this timely recording.
Paul Jost had already enjoyed a successful, decades-long career as a drummer, sideman, and leader when he decided to work solely as a jazz vocalist. Switching from player to vocalist mid-course is not a typical career path for a musician. But Jost’s quick rise as a singer over the last six years—he made his debut at Dizzy’s Club Coca Cola just a few weeks ago—is a testament to his innate talent, his precision as a musician, and his distinctive vocal sound.
Singer/composer Sara Serpa, whose shimmering straight-tone vocals and wordless melody lines distinguish her as a leading musician in experimental jazz, raises the bar ever higher with Close Up (Trem Azul). As she writes in the liner notes, Serpa is always seeking to “find the place for [my] human voice.” The album provides just such a place through the musical exploration of different sensate states: the loneliness of motherhood, the wonder of a nighttime mountain sky, the inspiration of poetry.
Lauren Lee is one of a new breed of singer-songwriters. She has all the bona fides of a traditional jazz singer and pianist, but she needs to do things her own way. As an artist, she gives her imprimatur to cross-cultural experimentation and off-the-beaten-track forms of vocal expression, never straying far from the post-bop mother ship.
The weekend of March 23-25 the mist lay heavy on the mountains, fjords, and frozen lakes surrounding Vossevangen, Norway, the setting for the 45th annual Vossa Jazz Festival. Despite the town’s diminutive size—Vossevangen and its broader municipality claim only 14,000 inhabitants—each day hundreds of ticket holders crowded into the festival’s several venues, all just a short walk from each other along a picturesque center street.
“You play good, for a girl.” Every instrumentalist on the Jazz and Gender panel discussion at The New School on April 4 had received this backhanded compliment at some point in her career. The panel, comprising pianist and educator Monika Herzig and five players from her all-women SHEroes band, was convened to address how gender bias affects female musicians’ training, career opportunities, and self-image. View the post to learn more.
Argentinian singer-songwriter Sofía Rei draws from a multitude of discrete musical sources to create her gripping, impassioned compositions. Free improv, flamenco, South American folk tunes, klezmer, modern jazz—anything that is rhythmic and stirring and meaningful.
Ten years ago on March 9 Lin-Manuel Miranda's In The Heights premiered on Broadway, forever changing the way we think about musicals and the northern Manhattan neighborhood that gives the show its title. Today more and more people are riding the A train northward to take in the sweeping views of the Palisades cliffs across the Hudson, try out a restaurant reviewed in The New Yorker, or attend a dance performance, cabaret, or jazz jam. View the post to learn more.
Cheryl Bentyne joined The Manhattan Transfer to sing the soprano part left open by Laurel Massé in 1979. Ten Grammys and 38 years later, she still performs with the group, which maintains an active international touring schedule. But her solo work, while perhaps less well known, is just as dynamic as her group work—and intriguingly diverse. View the post to learn more.
If you’re watching the latest Disney film in Copenhagen, you’re most likely listening to singer Helle Henning. Helle not only sings the character overdubs for big animated film imports in her native Denmark but teaches jazz at one of Denmark’s foremost music conservatories. In addition to her studio singing and teaching, Helle gigs regularly—but she only recently started performing in the U.S. As Americans become more familiar with this vibrant and innovative singer her presence in the U.S. will likely grow. View the post to learn more.
A voice and a guitar. No musical pairing is more romantic than this. The shared vibratory feel, the natural balance between the two, the intimacy of the musical dialogue—no wonder one in four Americans ranked the guitar as the sexiest instrument to play in an (admittedly old) 60 Minutes/Vanity Fair survey. Songbook singers have always appreciated the gentle strains of the soft guitar: Ella Fitzgerald and Joe Pass, Diana Krall and Russell Malone, Nina Simone and Al Shackman. View the post to read more.
For the last two years, Maria Schafer has been touring the world with the Glenn Miller Orchestra, a gig perfectly suited to the golden timbre of her voice and the clean lines of her delivery. In her hometown of L.A., though, you’d be more likely to catch her with a small group than a big band, and this is the sound that she brings to her newly released album, To Know Love (Marsch Music). View post to read more.
Music in Schools Today has been providing in-school music programs for at-risk students in the San Francisco Bay Area for almost 20 years, having served thousands of young musicians during its tenure. MUST has an impressive list of financial supporters, board members, and creative partners; among the latter is Jazz at the Ballroom, a not-for-profit arts organization that holds salon-type jazz concerts in the ballroom of Bing Crosby’s former estate. View post to read more.
This past spring, singers Urszula Dudziak, Michele Hendricks, Jay Clayton, and Norma Winstone reconvened their 1980s free improv a cappella group, Vocal Summit, for a European tour. Besides these four singers, the ensemble in various incarnations has included Jeanne Lee, Bobby McFerrin, Lauren Newton, Leon Thomas, and Bob Stoloff. Only two recordings of these historic collaborations exist. But two of the ensemble’s core members—Clayton and Winstone—just happen to be Sunnyside artists, and of late Sunnyside has been reissuing some key titles from its catalogue, some Clayton and Winstone records among them. View post to read more.
Singer Cécile McLorin Salvant’s illustrations are whimsical and charming, her handwriting round and neat. Both grace the cover of her new album, Dreams and Daggers (Mack Avenue), revealing yet another dimension of Salvant’s artistic self. Whether with a song or a pen, Salvant is a master at conjuring up captivating images. View post to read more.
The first scene in composer Jen Shyu’s latest work, the jazz fantasia Song of Silver Geese, opens with a string quartet quietly stirring. These sounds recall a darkened expanse of road in Java, Indonesia. On this road the audience meets Shyu’s protagonist, a young girl suddenly orphaned in a late-night automobile accident. The real-life event that spurred Shyu to create Silver Geese was a fatality that in 2014 claimed the life of her friend and collaborator, Javanese puppeteer Sri Joko Raharjo. The image of Nala, his [6-year-old] daughter and only survivor of the crash, haunted Shyu during the nearly two years it took her to create the composition. View post to read more.
As a vocalist, Dee Dee Bridgewater is a master of reinterpretation. On Red Earth (EmArcy), in 2005, she invoked her Nigerian musical heritage through a baker’s dozen of contemporary jazz originals and rarely sung standards. Ten years later, she revamped the traditional New Orleans repertoire with contemporary feels and arrangements on Dee Dee’s Feathers (Sony/Okeh/DDB). And on Memphis...Yes, I’m Ready (Sony/Okeh/DDB), she reaches into the R&B soundtrack of her Tennessee birthplace circa the 1950s and pulls several landmark tunes into the current century. View post to read more.
Jazz singer Alexis Cole’s career has been anything but conventional. She’s done residencies in far-flung places like Ecuador, India, and Japan. She fronted the Army’s big band for several years as a soldier herself. And now she’s a faculty member in the jazz program at SUNY Purchase. With a dozen critically acclaimed albums under her belt, some big awards on her shelf, and more good stuff to come, Alexis distinguishes herself a leader in the ever-evolving world of vocal jazz. View post to read more.
Fifty years ago, Frank Sinatra and Antonio Carlos Jobim recorded the landmark album Francis Albert Sinatra & Antônio Carlos Jobim (Reprise), a collection of seductive bossa novas that kept Sinatra musically relevant during the onslaught of British rock during the latter part of the 1960s. Earlier this year, Universal Music Enterprises dropped a luxe, remastered version of the classic album to commemorate this inspired collaboration—but they weren’t the only ones wanting to pay homage. View post to read more.