Tag Archives: Cait Jones

CAIT JONES ILLUMINATES (April 26, 2023)

One of the added pleasures of the past year has been the opportunity to hear Cait Jones sing in a number of contexts. She can sing sad songs with deep awareness but she is a born joy-spreader, Red Riding Hood with a basket of happiness.

I was fortunate enough to hear her and two instrumental stars at the second-floor piano room of Fraunces Tavern on Pearl Street (‘way downtown in Manhattan) on April 26, and I present four selections from that night for your pleasure. Cait was brilliantly accompanied by Tal Ronen, string bass, and Peter Yarin, piano. Tal is one of the most eloquent musicians I know, every phrase, every long line. I’d only known Peter as a brilliant member of Vince Giordano’s Nighthawks but was delighted by his limber, swinging accompaniment and solos.

But. Before you dive in, a parental advisory, a caveat, a trigger warning. No naughty words or lewd subjects. But the audience didn’t stop talking — that volatile mix of alcohol and self-absorption bubbling over the sides of the cauldron. And my microphone, although narrowly focused, captures all the sounds present at the time. I see it as the clash between Beauty and Ignorance, and for me — someone who can focus on Beauty — the lovely music wins. But if you are outraged by the audio quality or by the presence of goofy drunken yap, scroll down past these four performances to the bottom of this posting, where the sound is pristine.

And I reiterate: Cait is a marvelous singer. Her handling of the lyrics is wise yet light-hearted. She glides. Her first choruses saunter through the melody and words, fairly respectfully but stretching the line here, pausing or playing rhythmic games. Her second choruses (now that everyone knows the way through the woods) are fun and free: at points during this evening’s performance, I thought, “That’s the way Sweets Edison or Shorty Baker would play the melody, gently making us hear it for the first time.” See if you don’t agree.

The second song of the night, the pretty THAT’S ALL, usually a closing choice:

DON’T BE THAT WAY was once a sly sweet request but big bands took it more quickly. Harking back to Ella and Louis, Cait woos us in the best way:

Without trying to be Billie, thank goodness, Cait sails through ME, MYSELF, AND I:

nd for something more rueful, mournful, SMOKE GETS IN YOUR EYES:

But wait! There’s more! From a few months ago, Cait and Michael Kanan in duet on I HADN’T ANYONE TILL YOU:

Cait is not only singer and bandleader but also lyricist, a talent most vividly out in the open with her lyrics to music by Mathieu Najean. Here’s their collaboration on A MOMENT IN TWO:

Cait and Mathieu have recorded a whole CD of these collaborations, OUTTA THE BLUE WITH YOU, and here’s a thoughtfully charming one, DOWN AND ROUND CAROUSEL:

If you visit https://www.youtube.com/@caitjones, you can hear the remaining ten tracks — an intriguing chocolate box of musical delights.

And (perhaps breathlessly) that’s not all: Cait has a new CD — with Michael Kanan, Neal Miner, and Greg Ruggiero — soon to be issued. It’s wonderful.

So here’s to Beauty. Triumphant, transcendent. Conversation can compete with it but cannot bruise it.

May your happiness increase!

CAIT JONES and MICHAEL KANAN: “WHERE OR WHEN”

Michael Kanan, Neal Miner, Cait Jones, November 2022.

Please take a few minutes to savor this interlude:

I find this performance, in its apparent simplicity — two vocal choruses with an introduction and coda — very impressive in its understated ways. There’s the way that Cait and Michael respond to each other, her conversational phrasing, his intuitive tapestry of shifting harmonies, their reverence for Rodgers’ melody, for Hart’s words.

As the song itself describes an experience both new and deeply, mysteriously familiar, so does this performance. We’ve heard WHERE OR WHEN many times, but Cait and Michael make it new, surprising: the questions the song asks are real, unanswered, perhaps unanswerable.

And they are real questions, both ethereal and plain, as Cait asks them in the lighthearted manner she might wonder aloud, “Where did I put my pinking shears?” “When were we supposed to go to dinner?”

Michael is serious at the keyboard, as is his wont: creating subtle orchestrations right at the moment requires concentration. But Cait seems at points almost ready to “bust out laughing,” as they say. I feel that her mirth is pure pleasure: what it must feel like to have such a voice, easily navigating a wonderful song, with the one, the only Michael Kanan playing piano.

Who knows where or when? Cait and Michael do. Their music is the roadmap and the timepiece for our hearts.

May your happiness increase!

CAIT JONES BEAMS AT US

Michael Kanan, piano; Neal Miner, string bass; Cait Jones, vocal. Fine and Rare, November 21, 2022.

I’m late to the party, because Cait Jones has been singing and leading small swinging bands in New York City and around the world for more than a half-dozen years; she has YouTube videos and several CDs as “Cait and the Critters.”

But what I heard in person last Monday night convinced me thoroughly that she has and is a rare talent.

In the course of a set-and-a-half, Cait sang a baker’s dozen classic songs: YOU TOOK ADVANTAGE OF ME / JUST IN TIME / WHERE OR WHEN / LULLABY OF THE LEAVES / FOOLIN’ MYSELF / ZING! WENT THE STRINGS OF MY HEART / I HADN’T ANYONE TILL YOU / BLUES IN THE NIGHT / THEM THERE EYES // NICE AND EASY / YOU BROUGHT A NEW KIND OF LOVE TO ME / ALL TOO SOON / WHEN LIGHTS ARE LOW //

(I noted with pleasure the absence of GOD BLESS THE CHILD, MY FUNNY VALENTINE, and WHAT A LITTLE MOONLIGHT CAN DO — marvelous songs done threadbare through repetition. And because this post is about Cait, I am not writing at length about the superb intuitive playing of Michael and Neal, two heroes of the art. But you know.)

Because Cait has a background in swing dancing and music for those agile people, each song had a pulse, which enabled her, Michael, and Neal to explore the endless variations in Medium Tempo. No “racetrack tempos” (to quote Jimmie Rowles) and no sentimental dirges. In another singer’s hands, a dozen vintage affection-themed songs might have sounded too similar. But Cait had a clear idea of what I will call the landscape of each song, or perhaps its interior decor. So the mood of each song was unique unto itself. I never thought to myself, “Well, we just heard that,” because each pearl was remarkable on its own terms.

Her approach is at once plain and filigreed.

Plain in that she respects the composers’ intentions without melodramatic ego-displays. The result is a friendly convincing understatement, where the song itself is the star. She has a lovely voice, splendid clear diction, admirable microphone technique (somewhat of a lost art) dead-on pitch, and subtle swing. Her first choruses honored the melody; her second choruses wandered in the meadow of possibilities, changing a pitch here and there in a manner that would have pleased Richard Rodgers or Ann Ronell.

The filigree entered in her small but moving variations on the melodic line, and — even better — her delightful way of handling the lyrics as if they were emotive speech, compressing a phrase into a few beats and elongating another over the rhythm — as if the words had just occurred to her as needing to be shared, said, sung. I felt that she had moved into each song, made herself comfortable, and delicately rearranged its moving parts so that we could hear it anew. To me that is an art both considerable and subtle, never in capital letters but affecting nonetheless.

As you can tell, I was impressed. And I don’t impress easily these days. A publicist recently sent me a CD by a well-advertised young singer, and I put it in the player with the best expectations. Midway through the first chorus, I thought, “This young woman is doing a superb job of impersonating Sarah Vaughan — a great feat — but I can listen to Sarah unadorned whenever I like.” Cait Jones sounds like herself, although it’s clear she’s heard the masters. But delightfully, I think her inspirations are also the great instrumentalists, more Ben Webster and Johnny Hodges than cloning singers.

Cait has two new CDs coming out. On one, she composes lyrics to the music of Mathieu Najean; on the other, she is accompanied by Michael Kanan, Neal Miner, and Greg Ruggiero . . . none better. I will keep you informed about both issues, which I am looking forward to.

Thank you, Cait!

May your happiness increase!