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Sinne Eeg: Dreams (ArtistShare)

Sinne Eeg is likely the finest contemporary jazz singer you’ve yet to discover. While the 40-year-old Dane, regularly ranked foremost throughout Scandinavia, has recorded seven previous albums as a leader, Dreams is only her second Stateside release. Still, it’s an ideal point of entry, a stunning showcase of not only her intoxicating style, which suggests … Read More “Sinne Eeg: Dreams (ArtistShare)”

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Sara Serpa: Close Up (Clean Feed)

Every song, it can be argued, is a shifting landscape, the hues, light and details delineated by an artist, then further reimagined by the listener. Taking that conceit a bold, dynamic step further, as is invariably her way, Lisbon-born vocalist Sara Serpa unites with saxophonist Ingrid Laubrock and cellist Erik Friedlander to shape a 42-minute … Read More “Sara Serpa: Close Up (Clean Feed)”

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Five Essential Kurt Elling Albums

This Time It’s Love (Blue Note, 1998) Elling’s two most consequential influences, Frank Sinatra and Mark Murphy, are skillfully balanced in this standards-heavy set of elegant readings subtly bent with keen interpretive experimentation. Provided lean support from a core quartet of pianist Laurence Hobgood, guitarist Dave Onderdonk, bassist Rob Amster and drummer/percussionist Michael Raynor, Elling … Read More “Five Essential Kurt Elling Albums”

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Michelle Coltrane: What’s in a Name?

She has been singing since childhood and shares one of the most illustrious names in jazz. But, putting family commitments first, Michelle Coltrane, daughter of Alice and stepdaughter of John (who died when she was 6), waited until her mid-30s to record her debut album, I Think of You. It has taken almost a quarter-century … Read More “Michelle Coltrane: What’s in a Name?”

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Nellie McKay: Sister Orchid (Palmetto)

If Theo Bleckmann has an equal among fearless vocal adventurers, it is surely Nellie McKay. Like Bleckmann, an inveterate genre- and era-blurring genius, the British-American McKay has shaped a marvellously checkered career: She’s as infatuated with disco, rap and rock as she is with pop and jazz; she’s equally at home alongside David Byrne, Laurie … Read More “Nellie McKay: Sister Orchid (Palmetto)”

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Cheryl Bentyne: Rearrangements of Shadows: The Music of Stephen Sondheim (ArtistShare)

Though such early career collaborations as West Side Story and Gypsy yielded significant fodder for jazz artists, the show tunes that Stephen Sondheim later shaped by himself remain seldom covered (save the ubiquitous “Send in the Clowns”). Many of his intricately crafted songs just don’t lend themselves easily to reinterpretation. Yet, with support from several … Read More “Cheryl Bentyne: Rearrangements of Shadows: The Music of Stephen Sondheim (ArtistShare)”

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Norma Winstone: Descansado: Songs for Films (ECM)

If there is a voice that aptly defines the ECM aesthetic, it is surely Norma Winstone: slight yet sinewy, silken yet stalwart, ideal for etching the sort of minimalist masterworks that are the label’s stock-in-trade. Here, alongside her regular trio-mates, pianist Glauco Venier and multireedist Klaus Gesing, augmented by percussionist Helge Andreas Norbakken and cellist … Read More “Norma Winstone: Descansado: Songs for Films (ECM)”

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Hilary Gardner & Ehud Asherie: The Late Set (Anzic)

There’s a wonderful scene in the 1954 version of A Star Is Born where matinee idol Norman Maine (James Mason) bolsters the courage of band singer Esther Blodgett (Judy Garland) as she prepares for a screen test. “Forget the camera,” he says, “it’s the Downbeat Club at 3 o’clock in the morning and you’re singing … Read More “Hilary Gardner & Ehud Asherie: The Late Set (Anzic)”

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Jamison Ross: All for One (Concord Jazz)

While jazz history is lightly dusted with drummers who could sing—Buddy Rich, Grady Tate—none leap to mind whose vocal talents eclipsed their timekeeping acumen. Not until Jamison Ross. The 30-year-old Floridian, who now calls New Orleans home, earned his stripes behind singer Carmen Lundy and won the Monk Institute’s International Jazz Drums Competition in 2012. … Read More “Jamison Ross: All for One (Concord Jazz)”

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Kate McGarry/Keith Ganz/Gary Versace: The Subject Tonight Is Love (Binxtown)

Though they’ve intersected on various projects over the years, vocalist Kate McGarry, her husband, guitarist Keith Ganz, and keyboardist Gary Versace at long last make their trio debut. Literally and figuratively, it is a labor of love. The title comes from a 14th-century poem from Persian mystic Hafiz, read by McGarry on the introductory track. … Read More “Kate McGarry/Keith Ganz/Gary Versace: The Subject Tonight Is Love (Binxtown)”

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Review of MPS Albums From Oscar Peterson and Mark Murphy

Oscar Peterson Trio & the Singers Unlimited: In Tune (MPS) Mark Murphy: Midnight Mood (MPS) Founded in 1968, Germany’s MPS label was home to an enormously wide mix of jazz, covering everything from swing to ethno jazz and including such giants as Kenny Clarke, Dexter Gordon, Count Basie and Ella Fitzgerald. Now, remastered versions of … Read More “Review of MPS Albums From Oscar Peterson and Mark Murphy”

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Teri Roiger: Ghost of Yesterday: Shades of Lady Day (Dot Time)

Since Billie Holiday was a major influence on Abbey Lincoln, it’s entirely apt that vocalist Teri Roiger, who owes a considerable debt to both, follows her 2012 tribute to Lincoln—a fine, thoughtful appreciation—with an equally imaginative salute to Holiday. Roiger opens with a less funky but no less stirring take on Gil Scott-Heron’s “Lady Day … Read More “Teri Roiger: Ghost of Yesterday: Shades of Lady Day (Dot Time)”

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Fred Hersch & Jay Clayton: Beautiful Love (Sunnyside)

When pianist Fred Hersch works with jazz singers, only the most collaborative will do. As he explained to JazzTimes at the 2015 Newport fest, he creates “an orchestral bed or rhythmic bed for the singer, but I expect them also to listen to me,” to be both “spontaneous and connected.” For years he’s restricted such … Read More “Fred Hersch & Jay Clayton: Beautiful Love (Sunnyside)”

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Duchess: A Sisterly Listening Session

Though vocalists Amy Cervini, Hilary Gardner and Melissa Stylianou boast impressive solo careers, they share a long history of professional intersections. Cervini and Gardner were once half of a vocal quartet, Monday Off, formed in 1999; Cervini and Stylianou, both Canadian by birth, have been uniting off and on since the mid-2000s. (Gardner originally hails … Read More “Duchess: A Sisterly Listening Session”

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Ella Fitzgerald & Frank Sinatra: Voices of America

Most fans of American jazz and pop vocalists would agree that Ella Fitzgerald and Frank Sinatra were the undisputed champs of their era. But in 1959, both at the height of their artistic prowess, Sinatra ceded the top spot, admitting, “Ella Fitzgerald is the only performer with whom I’ve ever worked who made me nervous. … Read More “Ella Fitzgerald & Frank Sinatra: Voices of America”

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Today’s Jazz Singers on Ella Fitzgerald

Apologies to James Brown, but Ella Fitzgerald, who would have turned 100 on April 25, was the hardest working singer in show business. Fiercely career focused from her teens through her 70s, she maintained an exhausting tour schedule and amassed a discography than runs to more than four-dozen studio releases, hundreds of singles and one … Read More “Today’s Jazz Singers on Ella Fitzgerald”

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Marilena Paradisi/Kirk Lightsey: Some Place Called Where (Losen)

Bunny Mellon, America’s foremost arbiter of superior taste, lived by the motto “Nothing should be seen,” meaning that in order to achieve true aesthetic beauty, nothing must stand out. As a defining principle it perfectly describes octogenarian pianist Kirk Lightsey’s exquisite craftsmanship across each of these seven covers and one original. And Lightsey has found … Read More “Marilena Paradisi/Kirk Lightsey: Some Place Called Where (Losen)”

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Love, and CDs, for Sale: Ella Fitzgerald on Record

The vast majority of Ella Fitzgerald’s recordings have been reissued in various formats and packages again and again. Still, Universal Music Group, which controls Fitzgerald’s entire Decca and Verve catalogs, has devised several clever ways to reassemble and reimagine her work for her 100th. Released April 21, four days before her birthday, the four-disc Ella … Read More “Love, and CDs, for Sale: Ella Fitzgerald on Record”

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The Great Jazz and Pop Vocal Albums by Will Friedwald (Pantheon Books)

In his introduction to The Great Jazz and Pop Vocal Albums (Pantheon), noted authority Will Friedwald positions it as the conclusion of a quasi-trilogy. That triptych of sorts began a decade and a half ago with Stardust Melodies: A Biography of 12 of America’s Most Popular Songs, assaying such timeless Tin Pan Alley gems as … Read MoreThe Great Jazz and Pop Vocal Albums by Will Friedwald (Pantheon Books)”

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Jackie Allen: Rose Fingered Dawn (Avant Bass)

You know vocalist Jackie Allen, or you certainly should, given her track record of 11 uniformly exceptional albums over three decades. Hans Sturm, Allen’s husband, is likely a less familiar name, though the bassist and producer has been the essential yang to her yin for much of her career. Rose Fingered Dawn, yet another triumph … Read More “Jackie Allen: Rose Fingered Dawn (Avant Bass)”

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Ori Dagan: Nathaniel: A Tribute to Nat King Cole (ScatCat)

The best tribute albums are typically those that go beyond the obvious signature tunes, digging deeper into repertoire and/or offering fresh perspective on the honoree’s legacy. Ori Dagan scores on both counts. The Canadian vocalist’s backing includes pianist Mark Kieswetter, guitarist Nathan Hiltz and bassist Ross MacIntyre, recalling the classic Nat Cole/Oscar Moore/Wesley Prince trio, … Read More “Ori Dagan: Nathaniel: A Tribute to Nat King Cole (ScatCat)”

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Jazzmeia Horn: Social Grace

Could a singer who draws inspiration from legendary sax and trumpet players possibly be blessed with a better name than Jazzmeia Horn? The 26-year-old Dallas native, a graduate of Manhattan’s New School, is indeed blessed—not only with remarkable vocal skills but also sharp intelligence, an impressive sense of self and deep wells of creative curiosity. … Read More “Jazzmeia Horn: Social Grace”

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Bob Dorough Trio: Live at the Deer Head Inn (Deer Head)

The oldest continuously running jazz club in America isn’t in New York, Chicago or New Orleans but in the Delaware Water Gap of Pennsylvania, where for nearly seven decades the Deer Head Inn has hosted everyone from Stan Getz to Keith Jarrett. If the Deer Head can claim a resident headliner, it is surely Bob … Read More “Bob Dorough Trio: Live at the Deer Head Inn (Deer Head)”

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Sarah Elizabeth Charles: Free of Form (Stretch/Ropeadope)

Impeccable technical prowess providing the base for boldly uninhibited expression, all driving sharply shaped political and cultural views: It’s a combination as rare as it is thrilling, bringing to mind Betty Carter and Abbey Lincoln and, over the past half-decade, the neo-soul-meets-jazz fervor of Sarah Elizabeth Charles. Charles’ progress has been significantly enriched in two … Read More “Sarah Elizabeth Charles: Free of Form (Stretch/Ropeadope)”

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Nicki Parrott: Dear Blossom (Arbors)

Few, if any, contemporary jazz singers can match the recording prolificacy of Nicki Parrott: close to 30 albums (many for Japan’s Venus label) in less than 15 years, including tributes to mentor Les Paul, Doris Day, Peggy Lee, Nat King Cole, the Carpenters and, just released overseas, Burt Bacharach. Here the indefatigable Australian salutes Blossom … Read More “Nicki Parrott: Dear Blossom (Arbors)”

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Champian Fulton & Scott Hamilton: The Things We Did Last Summer (Blau)

Vocalist-pianist Champian Fulton knows from legendary horn players. Before her first birthday she was introduced to Clark Terry. She cut her jazz teeth in and around the Terry-named International Institute of Jazz Studies, run by her trumpeter father, Steve Fulton. And at age 10, the prodigy performed at Terry’s 75th birthday festivities. Later, she studied … Read More “Champian Fulton & Scott Hamilton: The Things We Did Last Summer (Blau)”

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Gregory Porter: Nat “King” Cole & Me (Blue Note)

It’s not that Gregory Porter hasn’t put his stamp on standards. Seven years into his reign as arguably the most impressive new voice in jazz, Porter has included exquisite readings of, among others, “Skylark,” “I Fall in Love Too Easily” and “God Bless the Child” across various albums. But far greater emphasis has been placed … Read More “Gregory Porter: Nat “King” Cole & Me (Blue Note)”

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Billy Daniels: At the Stardust, Las Vegas/You Go to My Head (Sepia)

In his 1950s prime, Billy Daniels combined the baronial lustre of Billy Eckstine, the smooth elegance of Nat Cole and the outsized showmanship of Sammy Davis Jr. Yet while all three of those peers earned legendary status, Daniels is largely forgotten. His recorded output wasn’t voluminous, and not nearly enough of what he did produce … Read More “Billy Daniels: At the Stardust, Las Vegas/You Go to My Head (Sepia)”

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Kellye Gray: Rendering (Grr8)

One of the finest jazz vocalists to emerge from Texas, Kellye Gray made an auspicious recording debut in 1990. Despite its success, within two years Standards in Gray was out of print, and remained so until Gray obtained the rights some two decades later. Come 2015, rather than simply reissue a 25th-anniversary edition, Gray set … Read More “Kellye Gray: Rendering (Grr8)”

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Seth MacFarlane: In Full Swing (Republic/Verve)

How delightfully idiosyncratic that Seth MacFarlane, who’s built a film and TV empire by trading in the most sophomoric of humor, has emerged as an old-school crooner, breezily mining Tin Pan Alley tunes with the verve of Dean Martin and the snap of Sinatra. Given his place near the top of the Hollywood firmament, it’s … Read More “Seth MacFarlane: In Full Swing (Republic/Verve)”

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