The singer’s abiding love for jazz is what’s evident when the listener breezes through a new stylish, well-produced CD by sassy Bay Area vocalist Jackie Ryan.
“Listen Here” (Open Art) is a recording by a young woman who loves to sing material from various genres, arranged to suit her comforting, lovely, three-and-a-half octave voice, a woman who surrounds herself with a group of nonpareil musicians — all hell-bent on creating a can’t-live-without-it product.
The Mill Valley resident is introducing her independently produced CD to a live audience at Yoshi’s Oakland at 6 and 8 p.m. shows on Sunday, backed by a combo that includes Bay Area favorite son, pianist Larry Dunlap.
On the CD, the singer had us the moment we listened to an exceptional arrangement of a classic jazz tune, “Comin’ Home Baby,” made famous by jazz flutist Herbie Mann, with lyrics by the witty Bob Dorough.
Ryan mesmerizes with a haunting, seldom-heard Abbey Lincoln ballad, “Throw It Away,” and captivates with a seductive rendition of George Gershwin’s “I Loves You Porgy,” from his heralded opera, “Porgy and Bess,” given sophisticated arrangement by pianist Gerald Clayton.
Intelligent lyrics from Carolyn Leigh on “How Little We Know” get an agreeable swing from composer Philip Springer, while others give us insight into the idiom of veteran jazzman Dave Frishberg, heard on the title track, a tune that demands we listen to our inner voice. Again, pianist Clayton offers meaningful accompaniment.
The end of a love affair, “La Puerta,” allows the singer to pay tribute to her mother’s Spanish tongue. Johnny Mandel’s glorious, effective “A Time for Love” generates warm memories and the Bay Area’s Carroll Coates provides a welcome bluesy “No One Ever Tells You,” allowing both Ryan and saxophonist Rickey Woodard to shine.
A relatively new composition from bassist John Clayton, “Before We Fall in Love,” has the added cachet of lyrics by Alan and Marilyn Bergman, while the standard, “To the Ends of the Earth,” features the virtuoso trumpet of Gilbert Castellanos along with the cool, classy clarity that inhabits Ryan’s portfolio.
“Listen Here” has been riding the top of the jazz charts since it was released. It’s a CD you’ll enjoy so much you’ll find yourself buying additional copies for friends.
Heartfelt rhythms from Raquel Bitton
Havana meets Paris on one of my favorite new CDs of 2013.
Bay Area residents should well know the name Raquel Bitton, for the diminutive vocalist with the big voice has played hither, thither and yon for several decades, including a few Napa Valley gigs.
While listeners associate her most often with the ballads of France — especially those made famous by the Little Sparrow, Edith Piaf — Bitton knows a thing or three about tango, bolero, danzon and merengue, too.
For her latest recording project, Bitton has turned to the repertoire of “a genuine movie heartthrob” most of us have never heard of. This “Rudolf Valentino of song” named Tino Rossi was born in Corsica in 1907 and had a successful 50-year career, recording some 1,200 songs and appearing in more than two dozen films. His romantic ballads had women swooning and his art songs by Jules Massenet and numerous others helped draw sold-out audiences wherever he performed. He is the only French singer to have sold more than 300 million records.
“Women wanted to be with him and men simply wanted to be him,” notes Bitton in the liner notes of her new recording. “His rolling, undulating Rs became the standard for Parisian speech; everyone spoke and sang like Tino Rossi.”
The Bay Area singer waded through some 500 of the songs Rossi recorded to find a dozen for her new CD, “Rhythm of the Heart” (City Hall Records).
Bitton will release the new CD in mid-April and to celebrate she’ll present the material, complete with large orchestra, at Yoshi’s San Francisco on Friday, April 19.
The CD features a 21-piece orchestra with musicians from stellar Afro-Cuban ensembles and the San Francisco Symphony, led by acclaimed Bay Area pianist Rebeca Mauleon.
From the beloved bolero of Osvaldo Farres, “Plus Je Vous Aime,” to the pulsating bandoneon of “Tango Melodie,” from the classic love song, “Tout Bleu,” of French composer Andre Hornez to the ultimate payback song, “Il Est Trop Tard,” “Rhythm of the Heart” is a gem.
All sung in French, the songs are as seductive as they are stirring.
Pilot with jazz in his veins
If you were digging the San Francisco jazz scene in the early ’80s, you probably got to hear guitarist Dave Haskell playing his brand of jazz and blues in clubs that ranged from the Great American Music Hall to the once glorious, now defunct Keystone Korner.
But before the decade slipped into the century’s last, Haskell, burned out on the music scene, switched gears — focusing on his other passion, flying.
For the better part of the past three decades, Haskell has been a commercial pilot, fulfilling a childhood dream. Before he took to the skies, Haskell was a widely respected improviser on the San Francisco jazz scene — a versatile, blues-drenched player often heard as a sideman and bandleader.
Now that he’s hung up his wings, Haskell is once again making waves on the Bay Area music scene, working with a first-rate combo.
Back, as they say, in fighting trim, Haskell has just this week released his first recording, “Pivot Point” (Coastal Sky Productions).
The 10-track CD features Haskell’s fluid, mellow tone in a variety of styles — from an intricate, retro-sounding salute to the commander-in-chief, “For Barack,” to an artfully detailed ballad, “An Orchid for Emily,” dedicated to hard-bop guitarist Emily Remler, two of the eight works composed by Haskell.
He also teams up with longtime friend Robben Ford for the guitarist’s own “Monty,” a composition with hook and hallelujah.
Haskell turns to the Herbie Hancock songbook to serve up one of the celebrated jazz pianist’s swirling salutations, “Eye of the Hurricane,” driven by a classy rhythm section (Aaron Germain, bass, and Alan Hall, drums) and a top-drawer pianoman, Dan Zemelman.
Guitar fanciers should grab this one for the collection and then welcome Haskell back to the fold.