Most of the tunes on singer-pianist Amina Claudine Myers’ latest release, Sama Rou (Amina C Records), are African-American spirituals that Myers’ arranged. On these tunes, her church-inspired comping is at once strong and precise and her singing full of pathos and triumph. The spirituals are uplifting, with their drawn-out tempos, a cappella sections, and heavenly invocations. But the truly transporting moments on the disc are in Myers’ original composition, “Intro: Crossings Part I, II & III.” The piece lasts 19 minutes and shows off Myers’ sophistication as an avant garde jazz composer and pianist; the track contains very few vocals, but her eloquent playing sings.
Myers’ second original on the recording follows immediately after “Crossings,” with barely time for a breath; the intro almost sounds as if it’s part of the preceding tune. But in this way “Ain’t Nobody Gonna Hear Us?” serves as the musical segue between the eclecticism of “Crossings” and the familiarity of the traditional tunes that come after (“Sometimes I Feel Like A Motherless Child” and “Nobody Knows The Trouble I See”); the tune relies in equal measure on the avant garde, gospel, and R&B. Lyrically, though, it’s a contemporary spiritual of the highest order—honest, beseeching, challenging. At its core is a question that never seems to go away. Myers, one of the early member of The Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians, will release the CD at the New York campus of the AACM on Oct. 7.
Singer/pianist/composer Daniela Schächter hadn’t really noticed Jimmy Van Heusen’s “clever lyrics and intriguing harmonic progressions” until she was being interviewed for a documentary on the composer, she says. Her subsequent exploration of Van Heusen’s work led her to arrange several of his tunes and to pen one original, “Vanheusenism,” the cornerstone of her September release, Vanheusenism: A Tribute To Jimmy Van Heusen (Purple Butterfly Music). The title cut demonstrates how readily Schächter’s sweet-timbred voice lends itself to modern jazz; on the other tunes, all Van Heusen standards (“ But Beautiful,” “Polka Dots and Moonbeams”), her deftly executed performances remind us how winsome Van Heusen’s songs can be. Schächter will officially launch the CD at Kitano on Oct. 27.
For years now we’ve watched as jazz clubs and cabaret rooms turned dark and closed, so it’s heartening to report this month on a new performing opportunities for jazz singers. First, in June the Metropolitan Room initiated a Friday night jam for singers at its Piano Bar at the Underground Lounge. Accomplished pianist/composer Yasahiko Fukuoka hosts; $10 covers the entry fee and a drink. Then, in September, pianist David Budway and actress Brianne Higgins opened Maureen’s Jazz Cellar in Nyack, N.Y. in honor of Budway’s late sister, jazz singer Maureen Budway. Besides jazz singers, the club will present comics, instrumentalists, and Broadway/pop singers. Finally, across the river from Budway’s club (and a little south) in Hudson Heights, singer Louise Rogers, whose superpower is bebop scatting, will be curating the WaHi Vocal Jazz Series the first Thursday of each month in the back room at Le Cheile (also the site of the Wednesday night WaHi jazz jam), starting this month. Rogers has booked fellow Chelsky recording artist Alexis Cole for the series debut on Oct. 1, followed by Amy London on Nov. 3, and Deborah Latz, curator of the VoxEcstatic series at the Cornelia Street Café, on Dec. 1.
Three legendary singer/pianists have milestone birthdays this month. The parties are happening as follows: On Oct. 15, Freddy Cole will turn 85 during a celebratory run at Jazz Standard Oct. 13-16; Jay Clayton, 75 as of Oct. 28, will have a birthday bash at Kitano Oct. 28-29; and Johnny O’Neal will mark 60 with a concert at JALC on Oct. 10.
While we’re pondering the import of our many revolutions around the sun, we might consider the story of singer Masumi Ormandy, now 77. She was born in Japan during World War II, married an American, and taught English in Japan for more than four decades. Throughout those years she harbored a love of the Great American Songbook, largely unexpressed until she partnered with Grammy-nominated singer and educator Roseanna Vitro. Vitro produced the aspiring singer’s first album, Sunshine in Manhattan (Miles High), which benefits from Vitro’s expertise (superb band, tight arrangements, quality production) and Ormandy’s cheery vocals and crisp delivery. Ormandy will appear at Kitano on Oct. 19 to give the CD a proper sendoff. It’s a story that ends with a happy beginning.
(Reprinted from the October 2106 issue of The New York City Jazz Record.)