One of the many pleasures of JAZZ LIVES is that I find about artists I would ordinarily never have known about. Here are three singers who might be new to you, whose work will please you. Each one is a strong individual stylist: no repeater pencils here. And since some of my metaphorical way of looking at the world finds food-analogies everywhere, if you think of the three singers below as very sharply flavored cuisines, you wouldn’t be far off.
I first encountered SONYA PINÇON on YouTube — singing as part of a group led by her husband, the fine swing pianist Philippe Souplet. She has a new CD out, IN THE MOOD FOR DUKE, where she’s accompanied by Souplet, Patrick Stanislawski, string bass; Joel Toussaint, drums. I was at first struck by the focused ease of her voice, evoking any number of fine singers but not imitating anyone. The repertoire is tried-and-true Ellington / Strayhorn, but it certainly sounds lively rather than overfamiliar. (I have my usual problems with the lyrics added after the fact, but Sonya doesn’t take it all too seriously, as if she were singing Sondheim or Hart, and husband Philippe strides splendidly and in a delightfully understated way.) They perform — live — DUKE’S PLACE / DROP ME OFF IN HARLEM / SOMETHING TO LIVE FOR / PRELUDE TO A KISS / CARAVAN / I AIN’T GOT NOTHING BUT THE BLUES / SATIN DOLL / SOPHISTICATED LADY / JUST SQUEEZE ME / IT DON’T MEAN A THING / DAY DREAM.
If I heard CHRIS PEETERS singing from another room — on the radio or her new CD, that my reaction would be, “Wow! Who is that?” And then when I heard her own blues — which has the refrain, “Well, a little strange is good,” I knew the amused and amusing souce of her appeal. It seems as if her world is charmingly atilt . . . perhaps ten degrees off what the world calls “level.” About half of her debut CD is devoted to her own compositions, which are surprisingly refreshing — her own versions of hip Europop, the theme songs for films that we might never see, music that we would keep humming to ourselves. Here’s that BLUES:
Chris has the benefit of imaginative and often surprising backing on her CD — including Dirk van der Linden; piano, organ, vocal, Vincent Koning, guitar, vocal; Jos Machtel, string bass; Rene Winter, drums, percussion, vocal; David Lukacs, tenor saxophone, clarinet; Joep Peeters, vibraphone; Ellister van der Molen, trumpet; Dennis Kolen, vocal. She is one of the few singers who can take on the Billie Holiday repertoire without being swallowed up by it — hear her YOU LET ME DOWN as a funeral march with a swinging pulse. The songs are NOT THE FIRST TIME / BAR FLY / PETITE DANSEUSE DE QUATORZE ANS / MY MAN / CHRIS’ BLUES / SUIT / YOU LET ME DOWN / OH, LOOK AT ME NOW / ONLY ALONE / IT’S LOVE / THE SPINACH SONG (I DIDN’T LIKE IT THE FIRST TIME) / LA VALSE DES LILAS / HALLELUJAH, I LOVE HIM SO. Find out more here
So far, LYNN STEIN doesn’t have a glossy YouTube video (more about that later). But she is the only singer of this trio that I’ve had the good fortune to hear live, and her new CD shows off what she can do — and more — in the best way. Although her new CD, SOFTLY, is brief, she shows off a variety of approaches in six compact performances: from risk-taking to carefully evocative to genre-bending (a version of I’LL BE AROUND that is tough, resilient rather than maudlin). Her singing can be coy, ironic, sweeping, and rich. And on the CD she has splendid musical partners: Jon Burr, string bass; John Hart, guitar; Matt Ray, piano; Warren Vache, cornet (on I’LL BE AROUND). Living in New York, I have the opportunity to hear Lynn and Jon often — and the best part is that Jonathan Schwartz is playing this CD on the radio: always a sign of great things to come. The songs are SOFTLY, AS IN A MORNING SUNRISE / ALONE TOGETHER / ONLY TRUST YOUR HEART / I’LL BE AROUND / WHAT A LITTLE MOONLIGHT CAN DO / MY FOOLISH HEART. Lynn’s singing sounds simple, but it isn’t . . . close listening reveals a great deal.
About the video! Here’s Lynn in September 2011 at Jazz at Chautauqua, telling us that everything was fine but it’s even better now — I WAS DOING ALL RIGHT — with Jon on bass, Howard Alden, guitar; Harry Allen, tenor sax; Dan Barrett, trombone; Rossano Sportiello, piano; Pete Siers, drums. I admire the performance; I was there; I held the camera:
Sing out, sisters!