Jazz CDs reviewed – late August 2012

August 27, 2012

Shirley Crabbe

On her debut release, Home (own label) Shirley Crabbe sparklingly demonstrates that she is a mature singer, with considerable talent. Shirley’s late arrival as a recording artists resulted from vocal problems eventually solved through surgery and it is a delight to hear her voice, which is full and rich and used with subtle flair and very good taste.  Shirley-Crabbe-CDSimilarly tasteful is her choice of songs on which she is accompanied by pianists Donald Vega and Jim West, bassist John Burr, and drummer Alvester Garrett, who make up the core trio. They are joined by guest soloists Brandon Lee, Dave Glasser, Matt Haviland and Houston Person, all of whom contribute significantly to the proceedings. That said, this CD is a showcase for an exceptionally gifted artist who must surely appeal to all who love good jazz singing and can now hear her for the first time.

Claire Dickson Scattin’ Doll (Naftule’s Dream NDR 102)

This remarkable young jazz singer has attracted much attention thanks in part to winning Down Beat magazine’s award as Best Jazz Vocalist (Junior High School Level). It is hard to believe that on this, her first CD, some tracks were recorded when Claire was aged 12, some at 13. Surely no one coming to this singer in a blindfold test would think she is so young – okay, so here and there are a few tiny touches that suggest her voice is not yet as strong as it will become, but throughout Claire displays startling maturity of purpose and understanding.  Claire-Dickson-CDHere, she takes her repertoire from the books of Parker, Ellington and Hampton, a few of the classic pop song composers, and performs everything with enormous confidence. Claire’s accompanying trio, Michael McLaughlin, Greg Loughman, and Eric Rosenthal, support her ably as do guest horns Gary Bohan, Dan Fox, and Glenn Dickson on three tracks, but this is a showcase for the singer who is, without question, someone to look out for, not just now but for the next several decades. Surely, this is the birth of a major jazz singing talent.

Andrea Wolper

Andrea Wolper has a fluid voice, which she uses in an attractive low-key style, drawing subtle nuances from lyrics, and shaping vocal lines into jazz performances. For some years she has worked regularly with guitarist Ron Affif and bassist Ken Filiano and the interplay of the three on The Small Hours (VarisOne Jazz) makes clear that this is neither singer with band, nor band with singer, but a co-operative trio of which every member is an equal part. The extent of Andrea’s musicianship is apparent from the fact that she is also responsible for the arrangements and these are exemplary. On 2011’s Parallel Lives (Jazzed Media), Andrea and Ken are in collaboration with guitarist Michael Howell, pianist Kris Davis, and electronic percussionist Michael TA Thompson. This group explores new possibilities in some standards, including a gorgeous Skylark, touches upon songs from more recent times, among them Joni Mitchell’s Song To A Seagull, and also provides three eloquent examples of Andrea’s gifts as a songwriter.  Tranceformation.cdClearly, this accomplished artist has much to offer those who delight in contemporary jazz singing, something that is underlined most effectively on TranceFormation In Concert (New Artists Records ), released October 2012.  On this album, recorded live in New York, Andrea and Ken team up with pianist Connie Crothers for a scintillating demonstration of the art of improvisation. Never becoming so abstract that the audience is left behind, they stretch the expected boundaries of the vocal-bass-piano trio line-up yet remain anchored to the soul of jazz. It is an exhilarating sonic image of where jazz (and jazz singing in particular) is located today and hints at the possible routes it might take tomorrow.

Deborah Pearl

For many years, Deborah Pearl was a friend of Benny Carter and with his encouragement developed her talent as both singer and songwriter. All these elements come together on the very good 2011 CD, Souvenir Of You (Evening Star), which is subtitled New Lyrics to Benny Carter Classics. Although this is a debut release, it is immediately clear that Deborah is highly accomplished as both singer and lyricist. The words she has written for several of the master jazzman’s compositions bring attractive concepts, reflecting both period and latterday elements.  Deborah-Pearl-CDSome of the compositions are instantly familiar, others perhaps less so but no less admirable for their melodic charm. On two tracks, Happy Feet (At The Savoy) and Anniversary Dance, the backing to Pearl’s vocal lines has been taken from a concert at Rutger’s by a big band fronted by Carter and featuring his inimitable alto saxophone. On these and all of Carter’s other compositions, which include Doozy, Johnny True, An Elegy In Blue, and Souvenir Of You, Deborah helps demonstrate how timeless is Carter’s music and how his admiration for others, such as Johnny Hodges, illuminated his work. With skilful accompaniment from pianist-arranger Lou Forestieri, bassists Chris Colangelo and Kenny Wild, and drummers Dave Karasony and Jimmy Branly, Deborah Pearl makes an impressive mark that should appeal to many.



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