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Monica Hatch: If You Never Come To Me

Monica Hatch sings smoothly, coolly, and steadily throughout a pleasing debut of five sambas, two Rodgers & Hart gems, two bebop scatters, two well-trodden ballads, and a Celtic evergreen. She’s one of the rare musicians who breeze between the jazz and classical worlds. Jazz fans may catch flashes of Ella’s candid innocence as well as Carmen’s debonair sangfroid. Classical fans may note the influence of her teacher, soprano Eleanor Steber, in matters of superb diction and legato phrasing. Hatch’s aplomb and agility in Annie Ross’ aerobatic “Farmer’s Market” also shows she wasn’t born yesterday on this quietly impressive debut. Her veneer of aloof reserve may dissipate with some emery-papering of experience.

A collaborative soul, Hatch embraces many of Boston’s best into her premiere. Dual scatting with baritone Paul Broadnax on the snappy “Anthropology” is a highlight; he plays fine piano and writes the low-key but spot-on non-samba arrangements. Mike Turk’s harmonica keens telling solos on “Gentle Rain” and the capper of the date, a whimsically gentle “Danny Boy.” The evanescent presence of drummer Joe Hunt enhances and inspires each track like an aura-as it did with Stan Getz, George Russell and Bill Evans. Likewise bassist John Lockwood (The Fringe) and guitarist Steve Cancelli prove smart accompanists.

Her other combination with Brazilian band Tita (the Lobos family: Tita on guitar, Edson on bass, and son J.P. on drums) and the perfectly understated, lyrical pianist Alfredo Cardim produces five convincing sambas (two wordless ones by the Lobos), with impeccable diction and that intangible sine qua non-a wistful vulnerability. Hatch’s “Gentle Rain” has more of composer Luis Bonfa’s Brazilian lilt to it than Irene Kral’s impeccable version (Choice, 1978), but is its equal in its precision balance of intellect and feeling; it also sports a bowed bass solo by recording engineer Peter Kontrimas and another delight by Cardim. Tita Lobo wrote fresh chord changes, the gorgeous sing-song frame, and sings warmly the Portuguese chorus on “How Insensitive.”

Originally Published