REVIEW: Sari Kessler’s “Do Right”

 photo SariKessler_cover_zps0ik6iha4.jpgIt would be too easy to simply call Sari Kessler a jazz singer for her voice on Do Right (self-released) shows that she is something that is quite simple: a great singer, period. Nothing wrong with that and by her album beginning with a cover of Burt Bacharach’s “Walk On By”, you get to hear what she is capable of doing without any theatrics, without stunts, without ego. Her own”My Empty Bed Blues” is a song that will hopefully be covered and performed in the years and generations to come but in order to know where she came from, you have to hear her grace and finesse here, which includes nice renditions of Duke Ellington’s “The Gal From Joe’s” and Bobby Hebb’s “Sunny”, the latter a song I can never get enough of regardless of who does it. What is amazing is this sounds like music who has been doing this for all of her life and yet this is her debut album. It’s very hard to believe this is her very first effort but this will make me want to know what she has around the corner.

AUDIO: Laura Perlman’s “But Beautiful”

If you are looking for some fine and chic vocal jazz, please try out “But Beautiful”, the latest song from Laura Perlman. This is taken from the pianists’ latest album on Miles High Records called Precious Moments, which also features drummer Loe La Barbera, pianist Bill Cunliffe, bassist Christ Colangelo, and vibraphonist Mark Sherman. Her album is available from by clicking the cover below.

FREE DL: Amy Lynn & The Gunshow’s “Can’t Put My Finger On It”

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A new track by Amy Lynn & The Gunshow is here to listen to and/or download (which will lead to repeat listens). The song was recorded live in one take with no additions placed into the final mix. It consists of Amy and her saxophonist/main man Alex Hamlin. Simple yet effective.

AUDIO: Nina Simone’s “Don’t Let Me Be Missunderstood (Zeds Dead Remix)”

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This may be hard to believe, but it’s true. There’s yet another Verve Records remixed project, this one called Verve Remixed: The First Ladies, honoring some of the many ladies who have released music in Verve’s discography over the years. Along with remixes by Toro Y Moi, Azari And III, and Bassnectar, Zeds Dead were honored with a spot on the album, and they decided to honor Nina Simone’s cover of “Don’t Let Me Be Missunderstood” in their own way: the drum’n’bass way.

REVIEW: Nicolas Bearde’s “Visions”

 photo NicolasBearde_cover_zpsfc280ef7.jpg It is known that I am not a big fan of vocal jazz, but what made me listen was seeing the words “Mighty Mighty” on the cover. This happens to be my favorite Earth, Wind & Fire song, so I immediately went in to see and hear what Nicolas Bearde is all about. I’m glad I did take a chance on Visions (Right Groove).

While primarily performing jazz, Bearde is someone who goes beyond the boundaries of that genre and also brings in elements of soul and gospel into what he does, with the gospel side being brought forth in his cover of Eugene McDaniels’ “Compared To What” (made famous by Eddie Harris & Les McCann). As for “Mighty Mighty”, he arranges it in the same fashion Doug Carn did on the album he made for Blackjazz and by doing so, allows the song to be heard in a different perspective than the soul/funk vibe the original did. Bearde also takes songs like “Everything Must Change”, “You’re Sensational”, and “Misty” and makes them shine with the great voice that he has, and by ending the album with the title track, a cover of Stevie Wonder’s “Visions”, it is almost his way of thanking the listeners for coming to the album, in the hopes they will listen to it again. With a voice that shows the riches of vocalists from the 60’s and 70’s (George Benson and Herb Fame immediately came to mind), Bearde is someone that shows maturity and wisdom not only in how he sings, but who he is influenced by. Someone might say he would be “a singer’s singer”, and you can take that as you want, but Bearde is someone who excels in what he does because he knows what he’s doing.

REVIEW: Renée Yoxon & Mark Ferguson’s “Here We Go Again”

It has been a few years since I last heard from Renée Yoxon, but she has returned, this time with a new collaborator (Mark Ferguson), and if there is a way to re-introduce yourself once more, she has done it with her appropriately titled Here We Go Again (self-released).

While her previous effort was more pop and jazz, she and Ferguson are bringing in folk influences to help bring her music to not only wider audiences, but perhaps to bring her stories to greater awareness, as these songs touch on the struggle of walking on the road called life. In songs like “There’s Only You”, Have We Been In Love Before?” and the passionate “Drinking Coffee”, you hear someone who sings from personal experience, as if each song is a small note meant to be ripper and put up on the wall before its adhesiveness fades and becomes another not-so-distant memory:
So I go on trying to hide all these feelings
And I go on trying to hide all this pain
But even though you’re right across the table from me, darling
I could wail and I could shout
I could let myself cry out
You’d go on drinking coffee and never ask me to explain

What I also enjoyed about this album is how tracks can move on from being smoky jazz club gems to country honky tonk sob fests, and all of it feels right and… I was going to say automatic but I think the term “natural” would be appropriate. Yoxon may subscribe to a few genres but her loyalties are open, and Here We Go Again is sure to make new fans to “again? You mean there was more before this?” Ferguson’s piano work adds its own level of strength throughout the album, especially in the title track, and together they make a unique team that I hope will consider making another album or two in the near future.

REVIEW: Olivia Foschi’s “Perennial Dreamer”

Olivia Foschi photo OliviaFoschi_cover_zpsb4b2d43c.jpg Jazz vocalist Olivia Foschi has the kind of vocal style that could be considered the equivalent to Michael Franks, that kind of boppy and schnazzy talking and walking style that will bring you to the locales of each song. Perennial Dreamer is an album that shows how graceful Foschi’s voice is in the music she calls her own. I found her originals to be quite good, especially “Bridge”, “Daydream”, and “I Adore You” but her approach in other people’s work is made more powerful when taken under her control. My favorite on this is “Disillusionment”, which can be a bit Coltrane-esque but still manages to shine with Foschi’s own trademark qualities. She may consider herself a Perennial Dreamer (or maybe this is music meant for the dreamers of the world) but she’s very much vibrant in these performances.

REVIEW: Patty Peterson’s “The Very Thought Of You”

Patty Peterson photo PPeterson_cover_zps1c10fed6.jpg Patty Peterson sounds like a lot of other great singers out there, jazz or otherwise, but I can’t name them off the top of my head. When I hear singers, I want to hear them for their strengths, deal with the weaknesses, and see how they’ll take on the song, how compatible they are with the musicians and now they just groove. Peterson sounds like someone who could carry any and all songs given to hear, even the bad ones, but fortunately the good ones are what make up hew new album, The Very Thought Of You (self-released).

While this is technically classified as jazz, some of the songs here are soul, or at least soul in the mid to late 70’s context where throwing in a saxophone to do an emotional solo may lead someone to put her into jazz radio rotation, and nothing wrong with that. These are slow jams that are necessary for everyone, including the younger generation, to let them know how it should be done in a proper fashion. There are some nice jazz covers here, but the ones I enjoyed were her treatments of George Harrison’s and Stevie Wonder’s songs. With Harrison, she takes on The Beatles’ “Something” and once again, you’ll understand why Frank Sinatra called it one of the best songs ever written. On the Wonder side, she takes on a song normally known for being a mid-tempo funk jam. “Higher Ground” is turned into a ballad, and it fits perfectly, showing the strengths of not only Peterson’s voice, but also how well Wonder’s words can fit in any context. Other cover versions on this album include Billie Holiday’s “Lover Man (Oh Where Can You Be)”, Cole Porter’s “Love For Sale”, and Michael Johnson’s “Bluer Than Blue”, and while you know they are covers, they become Peterson’s in a complimentary way. I’m normally not a big vocal jazz listener, but I could listen to Patty Peterson all day and night.

…and the morning.

REVIEW: Lisa Kirchner’s “Umbrellas In Mint”

Lisa Kirchner photo LisaKirchner_cover_zpsfb4e0a6c.jpg Lisa Kirchner is a jazz vocalist who has released a number of albums in her career, and Umbrellas In Mint (Verdant World) is her latest. On this one, Kirchner composed the lyrics and music to each of the 12 songs featured, and she gives it her all throughout the album, including a song like “A Billion Stars Ago (In The Shadow Of A Crow)” which changes tempo and style a few times throughout its duration. I feel each of these songs have a life that I hope will continue to be vibrant as they are covered by other singers and musicians.

REVIEW: Adina Even-Zohar’s “For The First Time (in a long time)”

Adina Even-Zohar photo AdinaEZ_cover_zps4af4d062.jpg For The First Time (in the long time) is the debut album from vocalist Adina Even-Zohar, and from the sound of it, it sounds like she has been making albums for decades.

On her album, she performs 13 songs displaying how well her voice carries these songs. She does this by performing “(I Wanna Be) Seduced”, “Where Do You Start”, “I Get Along Without You Very Well”, “Between The Devil And The Deep Blue Sea”, Nd “When You Wish Upon A Star”, each with the kind of arrangements that will be enjoyed by old and new fans of these compositions. I loved Eli Degibri’s saxophone work throughout the album, especially “Angel Eyes”.

Overall, quite a nice recording.