December 15, 2014
A recent release by Australian singer Janet Seidel prompted me to look back at my previous website. There, I found reviews of seven of Janet’s earlier albums, all of them on the La Brava Music label (which is jointly owned by Janet and her brother, David). One of Janet’s albums that I had missed is Charade (LaBrava LB0077), on which the singer presents a selection of songs by Henry Mancini. Accompanied by Joe Chindamo on piano, David Seidel on bass, Chuck Morgan, guitar, and drummer/percussionist Fabian Hevia, Janet takes a delightful tour through some of the composer’s best known works, while also finding time and space for a few songs that while perhaps lesser known are by no means unworthy of the care and attention given to them here. Among the songs heard are some from movies, a field in which Mancini was a master: Charade (from the film of the same title), Whistling Away The Dark (from Darling Lili), as well as songs from The Party, Two For The Road, and Days Of Wine And Roses. The similarly titled song from the last-named movie deservedly won an Oscar for the composer. There are also songs from some of the TV shows for which Mancini wrote memorably, notably the classic Peter Gunn series. To all of the songs, Janet brings warmth and subtle understanding of the lyrics, while her accompanists are impeccable.
Among the CDs that were covered on that earlier website was Moon Of Manakoora (LaBrava LB0068) and listening to this album again I have to confess that I did not say enough about Chuck Morgan’s playing of the ukulele, an instrument he had only recently begun playing regularly. The ukulele originated in Portugal in the late 19th century as a guitar-like instrument similar to the machete and the cavaquinho and was brought to the Hawaiian Islands by immigrants. Relatively inexpensive to manufacture (and hence cheap for students to buy), this four-stringed instrument was partly popularized because of its use in music schools and in particular through the acceptance into popular culture of Hawaiian music in the 1920s. Although familiar with the instrument since childhood, thanks to his father’s playing, Chuck did not play the ukulele professionally but during a 2004 tour of Japan with Janet and David he bought an instrument while in Tokyo. That same night he was urged to play the ukulele during a concert and was received rapturously by an audience that, unexpectedly but fortuitously, included several players of the instrument. Chuck’s playing is light and fluid and his inventive solos are a valuable addition to the session. Among the songs are When Lights Are Low, Till There Was You, Linger Awhile, April In Portugal, Deep Purple, Falling In Love Again, Twilight Time, Whispering and, of course, Moon Of Manakoora.
Janet’s new release, Far Away Places, on Antipodes Records (AR 101) has two, no make that three things in common with previous albums: a delightful selection of songs, exceptional interpretations by the singer, and superb accompaniment by her musical companions, David Seidel, playing double bass, and Chuck Morgan, playing various guitars and several ukuleles. Also added on some tracks are drummer Hamish Stuart and percussionist Fabian Hevia, while guest instrumentalists are Bob Henderson, trumpet, Paul Furniss, clarinet, Ben Jones, tenor saxophone, and Mitchell Morgan, soprano ukulele, while Janet plays piano on three tracks. The songs heard here include La Paloma, Too Darn Hot, Take The ‛A’ Train, Sand In My Shoes, Autumn In New York, Midnight Sun and Far Away Places. As is obvious, most of these songs are familiar but there are a few less well known to jazz audiences, including Haruhiko Haida’s Suzukake No Michi, with lyrics by Janet, and Paul McCartney’s Golden Slumbers. The songs evoke New York, the Hawaiian Islands as well as islands in the Caribbean and their lyrics are ably sung in Spanish and French as well as English. This is a very attractive set and it is one that this singer’s fans will want to have. Those reading this who love classic popular song but have yet to hear the exceptionally talented Janet and David Seidel and Chuck Morgan, should make every effort to buy this album. You won’t regret it.
For Far Away Places and any of Janet Seidel’s previous albums, go to Amazon.