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08/15/12

Halie Loren
Heart First
Justin Time Records

One of the most shopworn yet substantive showbiz clichés is the “overnight success” who has, in fact, been honing his or her craft for years. Oregon’s Halie Loren is a prime example. Loren’s Heart First has, since its release in March, generated plenty of buzz about her emergence as the next big thing among jazz vocalists. Fact is, Loren has delivered five previous albums and two digital EPs, all equally indicative of her status as an attention-worthy singer and songwriter. Until now, however, her notoriety was limited largely to the environs of Eugene and Japan (where appreciation of both established and budding jazz vocalists has always been keenest).

Over the years, Loren has followed Tierney Sutton’s example by establishing an enduring symbiosis with a working band. In Loren’s case, that includes pianist Matt Treder, bassist Mark Schneider and drummer Brian West (plus, more recently, guitarist William Seiji Marsh). As with the Sutton ensemble, the overall effect is significantly greater than the sum of its parts, and their tightness helps explain Loren’s chameleonic vocal skills, responding to the collective mood as appropriate. So she can be as breathlessly appealing as Julie London on “Sway” and “Taking a Chance on Love,” ease into a soulful pop groove on “Lotta Love” and “Feeling Good,” and mirror the voluptuous warmth of Sophie Milman on “C’est Si Bon.” And her songwriting abilities continue to demonstrate a laudable maturity, especially the pensive “In Time” and the deeply sensual title track.

Originally published in July/August 2012
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