Chuck Stewart – Jazz Photographer

February 15, 2017

It is not only musicians who have made an important and valuable contribution to jazz. There have also been club owners and promoters and record producers (Milt Gabler, Norman Granz, Barney Josephson, Gene Norman, Rudy Van Gelder), writers (Whitney Balliett, Will Friedwald, Gary Giddings, Ted Gioia, Dan Morgenstern), filmmakers (Frank D. Gilroy, Gjon Mili, Thomas Reichman, Bert Stern, Bertrand Tavernier), and photographers. The work of this last group has gone far beyond publicity material, edging across the border into art and creating some of the lasting images of the music in the past hundred years. Significant names include William Claxton, William P. Gottlieb, Herman Leonard, David Redfern, and Valerie Wilmer. Apart from the last-named, none of these artists of the camera named here is still with us but their work lives on in many areas of the arts.

Chuck Stewart, another exceptional jazz photographer, died on 20 January 2017. He was born Charles Hugh Stewart in Henrietta, Texas, on 21 May 1927. Raised in Arizona, Chuck had his first brush with commercial photography when he used a Box Brownie to record a visit to his school by the legendary contralto Marian Anderson. Sales of the pictures he took that day raised $2, which was riches indeed in those Depression years. At his mother’s urging, Chuck took piano lessons, but this never developed into anything approaching a professional standard. However, his interest in photography grew and after graduation from Ohio University he moved to New York where he joined Herman Leonard with whom he worked in the city’s clubs. This was at the end of the 1940s, and the jazz scene was thriving as the tail-end of the swing era met with newly-arrived bebop. Drafted into the military in the early 1950s, Chuck would later state that he worked as a photographer at the atomic bomb testing sites in Nevada. Back in New York, he periodically ran their studio when Leonard was out of the country working on motion picture commissions.chuck

Although specializing in jazz, his first and enduring musical love, Chuck also photographed artists from other musical areas, among them the Beatles, James Brown, Bo Diddley, Judy Garland, Janis Joplin, Led Zeppelin, Tito Puente and Frank Sinatra. For Chuck to attain and maintain his commercial success he clearly needed more than the jazz world and he also worked in many other areas, including sports, fashion, theater and films. It is, however, the images he recorded of jazz masters that stand out and they include Count Basie, John Coltrane, Miles Davis, Dizzy Gillespie, Elvin Jones, James Moody, McCoy Tyner and Dinah Washington. An indefinable element that appears in much of Chuck’s work is the fact that his subjects liked and trusted him, and this is most apparent when he photographed musicians on recording sessions. Many of these photographs appear on album sleeves, estimated at more than 2000, while his entire library of negatives exceeds three-quarters of a million.

Among the books displaying the work of jazz photographers are these by William Claxton, Jazz, William P. Gottlieb, The Golden Age of Jazz, Herman Leonard, Jazz, David Redfern, The Unclosed Eye, and Valerie Wilmer, Jazz People, all of which help us see into the hearts and souls of many of the greatest figures in the history of jazz.claxtongottliebleonardredfernwilmer



































































And there is also Lee Tanner’s book, The Jazz Image: Masters of Jazz Photography, which features the work of several camera artists.lee tanner

All of these books can be found at Amazon.

Jazz CD Reviews – early May 2016

May 10, 2016

Lauren White Out Of The Past: Jazz & Noir (Café Pacific CPCD 45130)

Even before hearing this excellent album, I was intrigued by its premise and title. In choosing her material, Lauren White has drawn upon songs performed on and off screen in films noir, those now classic movies that first appeared in the 1940s. Among the songs are He’s Funny That Way (from 1946’s The Postman Always Rings Twice), Again (1948’s Road House), You Kill Me (1952’s Macao) and the title song from 1944’s Laura. Other songs not heard in noir movies, but which fit the mood are Matt Dennis and Tom Adair’s The Night We Called It A Day and When All The Lights In The Sign Worked, an original by Joe Pasquale and Mark Winkler (the latter producer of this album). Lauren is accompanied by the trio of pianist Mitchel Forman, bassist Trey Henry and drummer Abe Lagrimas, Jr, with guest brass, reeds and strings on some tracks, while the arrangements are by Kathryn Bostic, herself a singer and composer, who is sole accompanist at the piano on Haunted Heart, which comes from the 1948 Broadway musical revue Inside U.S.A. The arrangements skilfully transport the music from that long ago era to the present day while still retaining reflections of the original source. As for the personal appeal of the title, although not musically represented here, Out Of The Past is one of the classics of the genre. My own interest in the source material inspired one of my books, Film Noir: Reflections In A Dark Mirror, (available as an e-book) and I have also written on the subject elsewhere on this site (December 2013).Lauren Lauren’s voice ably suits the material, moodily introspective where needed, bringing to mind the imagery of film noir, those shadowed, neon-lit, rain-streaked streets brought vividly to Hollywood by those filmmakers who had hurriedly left Germany during the late 1930s and early 1940s where they had worked with such distinction in the Expressionist period of European cinema. The singer’s clarity of diction allows the listener to consider the words, perhaps in some cases overlooked when they were heard on and off screen as nuanced shading rather than as spotlit features. This last point is underlined by Lauren’s interesting choice of Amado Mio from 1946’s Gilda, rather than the decidedly un-nuanced Put The Blame On Mame (explosively performed on screen by Rita Hayworth and dubbed by Anita Ellis). Based in Los Angeles, Lauren sings in jazz venues (as she does also occasionally in New York), and also works in the theater and television as actor and producer. With this, her fourth album, should she choose to do so she will surely substantially extend her audience.

Louis Heriveaux Triadic Episode (Hot Shoe HSR 110)

Although well known in and around Atlanta, Georgia, as a sideman, Louis Heriveaux is now attracting wider attention as a soloist and fronting a fine trio. The repertoire chosen here includes standards, Everything I Love, Body And Soul and All The Things You Are, jazz pieces, Kenny Dorham’s Blue Bossa and Mulgrew Miller’s From Day To Day, as well as originals by the trio.LouisH These are Swing’n Things, by drummer Terreon Gully, Lundy’s Blues, by bassist Curtis Lundy,Theme For DosLyn and One For Simus, by Louis, and Triadic Episode, by Louis and Curtis. Throughout, Louis plays with a gentle touch, bringing out all the inherent subtleties of the compositions and also improvising intelligently upon the themes. There is also a swinging rhythmic undertow brought to the occasion by the pianist and his companions. The piano-bass-drums trio is perhaps the most ubiquitous format among jazz groups but there is no sense of sameness here. Instead, the music is fresh and thoroughly entertaining and this, his debut album, is sure to broaden his appeal to include a much wider audience than hitherto.

Daria Strawberry Fields Forever (OA2 Records 22129)

With this album, Daria takes up a demanding challenge, because in common with many latterday composers of pop songs, John Lennon and Paul McCartney did not customarily follow the 32-bar AABA pattern for popular songs that has supplied so much material to the jazz repertoire. One result of this is that with only scattered exceptions the songs of the Beatles, for the most part composed by Lennon and McCartney, have not been widely used by jazz singers. Among those exceptions is Connie Evingson, who sings some of their songs on her albums Let It Be and All The Cats Join In (about which there is more in an earlier post). One result of a jazz artist drawing her repertoire from this source is the pleasing quality that many of the songs are familiar but not overdone in jazz circles. Among the most familiar are The Fool On The Hill and Can’t Buy Me Love, by McCartney, and Strawberry Fields Forever by Lennon. Other songs heard here are Come Together, written by Lennon, after having failed to find the right material for a gubernatorial campaign song wanted by Timothy Leary, and his deeply introspective Julia, written in memory of his mother. There are also a few non-Beatles songs, including Daria’s original, She’s Going Home, inspired by Lennon and McCartney’s She’s Leaving Home. Some of the songs have undercurrents of sadness, others are light-hearted; Daria shows her respect for the mood of the originals, but throughout offers her own concepts, which display her affection for Latin music.daria Daria’s vocal sound, creamily-rich and flowing, allied as it is to her ability to delve deeply in her interpretations, bring fresh life to songs that are, however hard it is to believe it, around half a century old. For this album, Daria has surrounded herself with leading Bay-area musicians, including, as her core rhythm team, Jonathan Alford, keyboards, Sam Bevan, bass, and Deszon Claiborne, drums. In addition to the trio there are brass, reed, percussion and string instruments that richly extend the tonal palette in a very agreeable manner.

For more information on Lauren White, Louis Heriveaux and Daria, including booking arrangements, see Mouthpiece Music.

Other informative and entertaining sites you might enjoy:-

Jazz Journal – ۝

Vintage Bandstand – ۝

Jazz Flashes – ۝

Jazz Wax – ۝

Frank Griffith – ۝

John Robert Brown – ۝

In Other Words

April 30, 2016

A few idle thoughts – well, almost idle. I have conducted no research, and I’ve no idea if anyone has already written on this topic. So what is it? Hard to put into a simple phrase, but here goes:

It concerns song lyrics and how differences between British-English and American-English affected British singers of the past, and how changing times accommodated these differences.

Where to start? How about at the movies? Anyone who has watched British films of the 1930s and 1940s will have noticed a certain sameness in the accents used by many of the actors. Also, it often appears that they are using an assumed accent, replacing the accent they had either from birth or acquired during education. (Accents require a digression into British class divisions and education, especially in the relevant decades, but that needs – and deserves – a lot of space and is, anyway, irrelevant here.) Of course, there are always exceptions in those old films and supporting actors might appear who speak in Scottish or Welsh or Irish accents, although not too many regional English accents. I should mention here that there are also variations in accents depending upon region in Scotland, Wales and Ireland, but in many instances these are difficult for a non-native to differentiate with any degree of certainty. In those early films Cockney accents are quite frequent, again usually among bit part players, and here again there is often a considerable measure of artificiality, suggesting that the accent might be assumed by actors not born in London and who are certainly not Cockneys. (For the benefit of non-British readers, a Cockney is someone born in a specific and quite small part of London; another irrelevancy.) Why would actors seek to lose their accents? Perhaps because the stage-acting tradition, which had its own accented English, was carried over into the film industry and through training, or perhaps simply in order to findJazz singer-stretched work, actors found it beneficial to lose their original accents.

Aside from films, accents heard on radio broadcasts of the same years, especially the 1930s, also have a certain sameness. On radio news broadcasts and current affairs programmes were heard many examples of what might be described as middle-of-the-road accents that have no obvious regional leaning. This was accepted BBC-speak, although some changes took place during World War Two when a few identifiable accents were heard on news broadcasts, a change in policy that coincided with previously anonymous news readers giving their names. (This was a policy undertaken by the BBC to assure listeners that they were hearing the real thing and not a propaganda broadcast by the enemy.) These wartime changes apart, the accents heard in films and on radio in those years were noticeably “better” than those in which the average listener might speak. Even more striking was the often rigid adherence to received-English pronunciation of words, the absence of elisions and colloquialisms, and the almost complete avoidance of contemporary slang.

In this last sentence can be seen the problem faced by British singers of the new popular songs coming from America and which contrasted strikingly with British songs of the same period. When singing, many of the British singers of the period displayed accents similar to those of actors and other broadcasters and like them used similarly rigid pronunciation. When singing songs by British songwriters this presented few problems because the lyrics were often written by those with an ear for the same language, but when these singers sang songs written by the new wave of American songwriters it quickly became apparent that the bonds of language that surrounded the lyricist and the singer were drastically weakened. A reason for this lay in those differences between British-English and American-English.

These differences had long been apparent to audiences in Great Britain, both in spelling and in the colloquialisms and slang used on the screen, in particular the hugely popular westerns and gangster films. Despite this familiarity, generally speaking the people on the streets in Britain did not try to speak in this way, but audiences were hearing on records and on radio the new popular songs and they wanted to hear these from popular British singers of the day. That many of these songs were filled with those elisions and colloquialisms and slang terms that most avoided in everyday speech was an obstacle. This might be the moment for a small, personal (but relevant) digression. I was born into a working class family in an industrial city in the North of England, a city that has a distinctive local accent. Although educational facilities were limited, I was luckily a member of a family that read avidly and listened endlessly to the radio and records and there was a cinema just around the corner (the last time I was there it had been demolished and had become a car park). Perhaps unsurprisingly, I developed addictions to books and films and popular music. Thus, I was constantly bombarded by language, written, spoken and sung in both British- and American-English; but, of course, it was all being absorbed randomly and with no real understanding of the inherent complications. What I did recognize, even if I didn’t understand why, was that I preferred hearing American singers singing American popular songs. Reflectively, I suspect that I was somehow aware that most of the British singers I heard didn’t sound comfortable when singing this material. I wonder if this was in part because some of the singers were encountering a problem similar to one that I faced with my own family. If I used a word or expression that the family considered to be inappropriate, someone would immediately remonstrate. Thus, slang, colloquialisms, elisions, contractions, were out. To use any of these was to commit the offence of sounding “common”.Blue Notes-stretched-xtra

So what did all this mean? So far as slang is concerned, while some British slang of the time did not sound bad, American slang spoken in a British accent sounded just plain silly (and, of course, the opposite was true). Colloquialisms were similarly dependent on origin and did not cross the Atlantic very well (in either direction). Among the songs that many enjoyed in those years – and which they continue to enjoy to the present day – are those that have become a part of what we now call the Great American Songbook. These songs struck chords not only with countless listeners but also clearly resonated with singers. But increasingly more and yet more of these songs contained elements that did not travel well unless the original accent was retained. When American-English pronunciation was changed to British-English pronunciation it simply sounded wrong. Consider one of the masters of American song lyrics, Johnny Mercer, who, perhaps more strikingly than any other songwriter, seamlessly absorbed colloquial language into his art, turning it into contemporary poetry. It was language those of us who were soaked in American films knew well but if we used ourselves was fraught with problems. Again personalizing these thoughts, if in conversation with my family I had used “ain’t”, “gimme”, “gonna”, “haveta”, “kinda”, “wanna”, “whatcha”, “wouldja”, “ya”, for some examples, I would have been corrected instantly; in the classroom use of these words might have brought a rap on the knuckles (a frequent happening in those days). Yet Mercer, and other songwriters of his time, used words like these in a manner that often touched upon and sometimes fully embraced and accelerated the Americanization of the English language.singer

In our book, Singing Jazz: The Singers And The Styles, Mike Pinfold and I considered this topic, observing that “The form of English spoken by Americans has different speech patterns, pronunciations, intonations, inflections and rhythms.” When sung by an American singer in an American accent, the skill and frequent beauty of lyrics like those of Mercer is apparent. But if a British singer sang these Amercanisms in a British accent, they sounded – well, I used the word before and here again it fits – they sounded just plain silly. It wasn’t hard for a singer to decide what to do to overcome these problems, all that was necessary was that they should use an American accent. But easy though that decision might have been, getting an American accent right when the speaker’s original accent was not only British but regional British was beyond the grasp of many. Hence, those performances that somehow never rang as true as when the same songs were sung by American singers.

There were gradual changes over the years and although outside the scope of these notes I will mention them briefly.

Hollywood, like it or not, the dictator of many Anglo-American and American-Anglo beliefs and attitudes, sometimes hired British actors to play British roles in American films. While that might seem like the obvious thing to do, it was not always so and British roles in some Hollywood films might be played by American actors attempting an impersonation or by actors from Australia or New Zealand. These might have sounded British to American filmmakers and audiences but to British ears they sounded (that word again) silly. Apart from being wrong at the root, there was also the apparent assumption by many that the British all spoke like Cockneys and this accent appeared in all sorts if unlikely settings. (Dick Van Dyke in Mary Poppins, often regarded as the notorious nadir of this trend, is far from being alone and mis-casting continues to this day.) From the 1950s onward there were changes, too, in popular music and there was soon widespread awareness among American audiences that the British accent had regional variations. This came forcibly when Beatlemania struck America. All of the Beatles were from Liverpool and spoke (but did not sing) with that city’s distinctive accent. Perhaps for the first time, a real “ordinary” British accent was widely heard by the nationwide American audience; whether or not this audience knew that the Liverpool accent is decidedly parochial is another matter.

So, are things better today? Well, they’re certainly different. In the main, this would seem to be a side-effect of the gradual accretion of Americanisms into the language used by the British. This appears in all walks of life, at all class levels, and popular music is no exception. Many British singers have developed the ability to sing songs using a believable American accent – at least when heard on record where there is only the singing. In concert, it isn’t quite so easy as Tina May pointed out when Mike Pinfold and I interviewed her for Singing Jazz. Tina observed that hers is a “purish English-sounding voice and I’m quite proud of that; after all jazz in the 1990s is such a world music. . . . My dilemma would be – how do you sound between songs? Do you have to have an accent all the way through? Then you become a completely different character.”singing jazz 2

Today, singers of many nationalities comfortably sing pop and jazz song lyrics written in English by American writers. Some of them have discernible accents, but many do not and blindfold tests would probably catch out the majority of listeners. Jazz and pop singing, like the music itself, has indeed become international. Has anything been lost through this loss or merging of accents? I don’t think so, because this serves to meet the demands of the music and especially the lyrics. As Claire Martin stated, when interviewed for that same book: “Jazz singing is American music and you slip naturally into the accent when singing.”

Where am I with these idle thoughts? I’m not sure – certainly not at any sensible conclusion. So I’ll bring this post to an end and think of it as Part One so that I can return to the subject when (or maybe that should be “if”) I decide where I’m going.

Jazz CD Reviews – June 2015

June 16, 2015

Connie Evingson All The Cats Join In (Minnehaha MM 2010)

Not many things in life come with a guarantee, but just seeing Connie Evingson’s name is an assurance of musical quality and this new album fulfills all expectations. The music is good, the instrumentalists with whom she is working are highly skilled, and the singer herself is superb. On my old website I listed three albums, two of them being Let It Be Jazz (Summit) and Gypsy In My Soul (Minnehaha). I mention these because the first included some Beatles’ hits while on the second Connie is accompanied by three different American bands all playing in the style of the QHCF. On this new release there are two songs by Paul McCartney, I’ll Follow The Sun and World Without Love, while the accompaniment throughout is by another band modeled upon the Quintette du Hot Club de France. This group is the John Jorgenson Quintet, the leader doubling on clarinet on some tracks but mostly heard on guitar where his extraordinarily fleet and inventive work vividly displays his admiration for Django Reinhardt, founder of the QHCF. This particular quality has brought John recognition at the Django Reinhardt Memorial Festival in France and he appeared on screen in 2004’s Head in The Clouds, playing the role of the master. With John in his quintet are Jason Anick, violin, Doug Martin, rhythm guitar, Simon Planting, bass, and Rick Reed, drums (and here and there John also adds attractive vocal touches harmonizing with Connie).connie e

Connie’s singing on this wholly admirable set is outstanding; her always true vocal sound is sinewy, poised, engaging and a joy to hear. Among the well-chosen songs are Solitude, by Duke Ellington and Eddie DeLange, Black Orpheus by Luiz Bonfá and Antonio Maria, All The Cats Join In by Eddie Sauter, Alec Wilder and Ray Gilbert, Tickle Toe by Lester Young and Jon Hendricks,The Jersey Bounce by Tiny Bradshaw, Eddie Johnson, Bobby Plater and Buddy Feyne, as well as several standards including Love Me Or Leave Me, Dream A Little Dream Of Me, Between The Devil And the Deep Blue Sea, and You’re Driving Me Crazy. Worth more than this passing mention, Connie is joined on All The Cats Join In/Tickle Toe by Jon Hendricks, 93 years old at the time and clearly enjoying himself enormously. A similar sense of enjoyment is always apparent in Connie’s work, whether she is fluently evoking the heart of a ballad or swinging lithely on mid- and up-tempo songs. A thoroughly delightful effervescence pervades everything that Connie does and this new release is something to savor. I don’t know how far and wide Connie travels from her Minneapolis base – I know she plays New York and Toronto – but club, concert and festival promoters the world over should be clamoring for her. If you are lucky enough to live in or near the Twin Cities do yourself a real favor and catch her live. If that’s not an option buy this album. It’s wonderful.


Deborah Latz Sur L’Instant (June Moon 40515)

I have remarked before on Deborah Latz’s ability to delve deeply into the lyrical heart of the songs she sings. Perhaps this is because of her highly successful career acting in various settings, most notably in one-woman performances. What matters here, is that Deborah’s interpretative skills are directed at a rich and varied repertoire of songs, many of which are familiar in the jazz world yet most often as instrumentals rather than vocals. The jazz works Deborah sings here are Abbey Lincoln’s Throw It Away, Dave and Iola Brubeck’s Weep No More, Miles Davis and Jon Hendricks’ Four, Thelonious Monk and Abbey Lincoln’s Blue Monk, and John Coltrane and Jon Hendricks’ Mr. P.C.latz There are also standards from the American Song Book: Jerome Kern and Oscar Hammerstein’s All The Things You Are, Eden Ahbez’s Nature Boy, and Harold Arlen and Yip Harburg’s Over The Rainbow, and the album opens with the Love Theme from Spartacus, by Alex North and Terry Callier. The singer is supported by the empathic instrumental duo of pianist Alain Jean-Marie and bassist Gilles Naturel, both of whom have fine solo moments. On this album, Deborah delivers a highly enjoyable set of music that appeals both to the intellect and the emotions.


Ken Greves Night People (Jazz Cat Productions)

An elegant, wee small hours presentation by New York nighttime singer Ken Greves of some classic songs that take an optimistic look at some outwardly dark emotions. Lost love, faded hopes, bruised feelings are all addressed here with care and understanding. Among the songs are One For My Baby (And One More For the Road),The Night We Called It A Day, Street Of Dreams, Let Me Down Easy, and I Keep Goin’ Back To Joe’s. Ken is accompanied with flair by pianist Frank Ponzio, bassist Peter Donovan and drummer Vito Lesczak. These comments are deliberately brief because I had the pleasure of writing the liner notes and that is where you can read my thoughts on the singer and the songs at length.

These albums are available at stores both walk-in and on-line, the latter including Amazon.

Far Away Places . . .

March 17, 2013

Here are some thoughts on three female singers from countries that do not spring instantly to mind when talking about jazz. Yes, I know that jazz has long been an international form of music, but I would suggest that if the average jazz fan from the USA or UK were asked to make a list that reached double figures of musicians from Poland, Finland and Italy, they might well struggle. Why is that? It isn’t as if there are no Polish, Finnish or Italian musicians of the highest caliber and more than worthy of serious consideration by jazz fans around the world. I do not doubt that many readers of these words who live in Poland or Finland of Italy, countries that have lively jazz scenes, will be screaming out lists of names, but those from the USA and UK might be much quieter. Well, here are three names, one from each of the three named countries – all are seriously worth your attention. They are Deborah Latz, Sofia Laiti and Roberta Gambarini.

Jazz singer-stretched

Deborah Latz is now well-established in New York City, and her latest release, Fig Tree, finds her again exploring the Great American Songbook, something that she did to considerable effect on an earlier album I enjoyed. This field of music is one that she clearly admires and respects and, indeed, performs very well; all of which might come as a surprise if a newcomer to her work had first read of her background. Before becoming known as a singer, Deborah built a career in acting and performed several one-woman shows, which embraced the popular culture and often dark history of Central Europe. One of these shows brought her Best Actress Award at the Jerzy Grotowski Theater Festival in Poland. Unafraid to confront historical issues that echo painfully through to the present day, Deborah also appeared in a one-woman performance, The Prisoner, which centers upon a Holocaust survivor. Ably composing words and music for her one-woman show, Travels With Ma Own Self, a career move towards working as a singer was perhaps inevitable, and it is a move that Deborah has accomplished with enormous skill.

Writing about an earlier album, Lifeline, I remarked that although billed as a jazz singer I thought that she really belongs in that large group of singers who bring jazz touches and thinking to the art of popular song.dlatz1 I felt that she did this very well, comfortably finding empathy with American song standards while also displaying rapport with songs better known to European audiences. On Lifeline Deborah is accompanied by her then regular trio of pianist Daniela Schächter, bassist Bob Bowen and drummer Elisabeth Keledjian (as well as guest tenor saxophonist Joel Frahm). Deborah and her collaborators deliver attractive and thoughtful interpretations of songs such as I Get Along Without You Very Well, Witchcraft, How Deep Is The Ocean, and I Didn’t Know What Time It Was and altogether this is a thoroughly entertaining CD.

Clearly, Deborah is at ease with the standards, especially ballads and on Fig Tree she sings Blue Skies, You’d Be So Nice To Come Home To, Ill Wind, Embraceable You and Moon River. But she comfortably moves into the jazz arena, singing Hi-Fly, which is by Randy Weston and Jon Hendricks, and Alberta Hunter’s I’m Having A Good Time. LatzNewImageThere are also attractive examples of Deborah’s abilities as composer and lyricist:You Are, Fig Tree and She Was. On this album, Deborah is supported by the core trio of pianist Jon David, guitarist John Hart and drummer Willard Dyson, while saxophonist Peter Apfelbaum appears as guest soloist. Deborah’s vocal sound is light, delicate, yet her interpretation of lyrics is profound. She sings with springy joyousness that imparts to the listener the pleasure she clearly has in singing these songs.

Go to her website for more about Deborah Latz;her albums are available everywhere, including Amazon.



Since 1989, Sofia Laiti has also been based in New York City. I first heard Sofia on her fourth CD, You Don’t Know Me, which was released in 2004. On this album, she ably demonstrated why she had gained an admiring following on the city’s jazz and contemporary pop scenes. Sofia sings in a mature contralto, comfortably displaying her mastery of her second language.slaiti1 On this CD, she is backed by an effective quartet: pianist Larry Ham, bassist Leon Lee Dorsey, drummer Vince Ector, and veteran tenor saxophonist Houston Person. Sofia performs a selection of mostly familiar songs, for some of which she finds a relaxed intimate mood. Others, such as La Vie En Rose and If You Go Away lend themselves to the dramatic interpretations that they receive.

On her 2011 release, Like A Road Leading Home, Sofia broadened her repertoire to include latterday pop and in particular the music of Bob Dylan. Only recently has Dylan’s work been taken up by singers in and on the edges of jazz and many listeners will not be surprised that his songs lend themselves to interpretation by contemporary singers. The songs have interesting melodies and meaningful lyrics that explore many topics not often touched upon by the writers of classic pop. Sofia’s interpretations reach to the heart of these songs and she delivers always fascinating variations on the originals, leaning in some instances towards country while the blues that Dylan so admires can also be heard. slaiti2On this release, Sofia is joined by pianist James Weidman, bassist Marcus McLauren, guitarist Adam Lomeo, and drummer Vince Ector, while accordionist Mariel Berger and violinist Scott Tixier bring added colour to the basic ensemble sound. This is a very pleasing set that should appeal widely and should certainly extend this admirable singer’s audience.

Go to her website for more about Sofia Laiti; her albums are available everywhere, including Amazon.



Within days of her arrival in the USA in 1998, Roberta Gambarini won third prize in the Thelonious Monk International Jazz Competition, coming behind winner Teri Thornton and runner-up Jane Monheit. Her move to America came after she had established her name in her homeland as a jazz singer of exceptional promise, and she was now intent on studying at the New England Conservatory of Music. Some singers have seen the Monk contest open up a route to fame and fortune, but Roberta chose to remain solidly rooted in jazz, despite the inevitable absence of acclaim outside the genre. That she has fulfilled all her early promise, building a reputation not only with jazz audiences but also among jazz instrumentalists with whom she has worked, is a credit to her ability and perseverance. These include front-rank artists such as Benny Carter, Hank Jones, with whom she recorded an album, Michael Brecker and James Moody. robertaeasyThe last named of these appears on two tracks on Easy To Love, and others appearing with her include pianist Tamir Hendleman and bassist John Clayton. The subtle support of front-rank players propels Roberta into plangent performances of songs that while familiar are by no means overdone. They include On The Sunny Side Of The Street, Guess I’ll Hang My Tears Out To Dry, Too Late Now, and Only Trust Your Heart. The charts here are by Roberta and are comfortably loose, allowing singer and instrumentalists to swing through exhilarating variations on familiar chords. Roberta has a mellow and mature sound, her phrasing is ideal and her interpretation of lyrics excellent.


On You Are There, Roberta is accompanied only by Hank Jones and the results are majestic. (Only Hank Jones? That’s a bit like saying my only car is a Rolls Royce.) Among the songs interpreted here with love and skill and genuine sincerity are Stardust, Deep Purple, When The Lights Are Low, Just Squeeze Me, and You’re Getting To Be A Habit With Me. Throughout, the mature understanding for the material makes every song a delight to hear. robertahankChoice of tempo is not always obvious, and so much the better for this, and unlike many of the other younger generation of jazz singers, Roberta handles scat with considerable aplomb.


For Grammy-nominated So In Love, Roberta is again backed by front-rank instrumentalists, among them tenor saxophonist James Moody, trumpeter Roy Hargrove, pianist Gerald Clayton, and drummer Jake Hanna. Again, Roberta has made all the arrangements and again the response is exceptional, bringing new life to old favorites, such as Day In, Day Out, Get Out Of Town, That Old Black Magic, From This Moment On, and You Must Believe in Spring. Even Beatles music something not readily adaptable to jazz, gets a new lick of paint.



Go to this website for more about Roberta Gambarini; her albums are available everywhere, including Amazon.


A final thought: although these singers were born far apart and grew up in very different cultures, they have some things in common. Obviously, all are hugely talented, all have great empathy with the Great American Songbook; less obvious, until you hear them that is, all have excellent linguistic skills. Nowhere is there a hint that English is not their first language. One other link they share, and the only one that is a little less sunny, is that in order to achieve their present stature in today’s world of jazz singing, they had to leave home. Is it only me that finds this sad? Again, maybe it’s only me, but I think that a closer look at artists still working in Poland and Finland and Italy – to say nothing of Sri Lanka and South Africa and New Zealand and China and, well, the list is endless – is something well worth taking.

Or do we all just sit and wait for them to come to us?

Next Page »

Looking For Something Specific?

Interested in a Specific Category?