Jackie Ryan joined the upper echelon of contemporary jazz vocalists at least a half-dozen years ago, around the time of her stunning You and the Night and the Music. 2009’s aptly titled Doozy, a double platter of delights, reconfirmed her stature, evincing an effortlessness akin to Ella’s or Sarah’s—that ineffable ability to be as one with each song, whether ballad or swinger.
Now, with the flawless Listen Here, Ryan again surpasses herself. As always, her tone, phrasing and interpretive smarts are impeccable and her range sublime, but there is a fresh earthiness evident across these 14 tracks, an even richer naturalness. Significant credit for the album’s exemplary sound and feel is due John Clayton who, in addition to playing bass (alongside son Gerald on piano and organ), served as producer and arranger.
Never one to underplay her dexterity, Ryan covers considerable musical ground, traveling from the brass-lined fervor of her opening “Comin’ Home Baby” and testifying strut of “Accentuate the Positive” to the warm breeziness of “Anytime, Any Day, Anywhere” and the hushed beauty of the Dave Frishberg title track. Along the way, she delivers an enchanted reading of Abbey Lincoln’s “Throw It Away,” revisits the Mexican half of her heritage with the heartrending “La Puerta,” and rivals the majesty of Nina Simone on a towering “I Loves You, Porgy.”