by: Hobart Taylor
Melody Gardot - Live In Europe - (Verve)
Our times deserve a Marlene Dietrich or Edith Piaf, a singer whose personality overwhelms everything she sings, and we may have one in Melody Gardot. Her contribution to jazz singing is not technical proficiency or tonal purity, although she has those, it's offering up her self absent of ironic or critical distance. That's why these live recordings really capture the special relationship she has with listeners. She appears naked on the album cover, not in a suggestive way, just as a natural presentation of self, comfortable and present. Her singing's the same way.
Bettye Lavette - Things Have Changed - (Verve)
Bettye Lavette has one of those voices. You believe everything she sings. As an interpreter of other people's music, she has been in copious demand. Whether singing Lucinda Williams' "Joy", Gnarls Barkley's "Crazy", or The Who's "Love Reign O'er Me", she has infused those songs with power and authority, wisdom and, cunning. So now she takes on Dylan. Dylan tends to define his songs by the way he sings them, so what could she add you might ask. Soul. Soul. Soul.
Dylan stands at the crossroads of American song. Right now he is strolling down the broad way of the Great American Songbook.
LaVette beckons from the dark, inviting, and potentially perilous alley in his peripheral vision. Check out "What Was It You Wanted" and "Emotionally Yours" for intimate honesty, "Do Right To Me Baby" and "Political World" for power, and "Things Have Changed" and my favorite "Going, Going, Gone" for wistful sincerity.
Brenda Navarrete - Mi Mundo - (Alma Records)
From Cuba, Navarette combines Afro-Cuban traditional drumming with deep Weather Report style jazz and tosses in heavenly choral harmonies. The results are comfort food for the ears.
Kathy Kosins - Uncovered Soul - (Maristar)
1970's right down to the wah wah. Deep soulful singing. Highlights, a stunning version of "Ms. Martha" and the relaxed ballad "The Downtown Lights".
Kalil Wilson - Easy To Love - (Self Released)
Cabaret singer in the Bobby Short tradition. Checks all the boxes. A classic jazz singer singing classic songs. Oh, and he swings.
Andy Distel - It Only Takes Time - (Je Ru Jazz)
Chicago's Distel is more than a fine interpreter of songs and superior vocal musician, he is someone who brings careful consideration his performance style, never over-doing, never showing off, always in the moment with the song. Highlights include the Gershwins' "Who Cares", the bebp tune "Your Last Song", and “One Morningstar Away"
Kristina Koller - Perception - (Self-Released)
Smart arrangements and sincerity abound in this laid back but intense singer's latest release. She kills on her take of "Nice Work If You Can Get It", on her own song, "Utopia" and the Frank Loesser tune "I'll Know".