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Various Artists - Women of Jazz

Women of Jazz

Various Artists

Putumayo - PUT-286

Available from Putumayo World Music.

A review written for the Folk & Acoustic Music Exchange
by Mark S. Tucker

Some of us are more than satisfied that the ladies should be the slinkier sex, and this CD pretty much celebrates the fact, opening with Melody Gardot's smoky Goodnite, svelte, scatty, and smoldering. Divas are the dish du jour in Women in Jazz and their styles range the jazz world, as in Cassandra Wilson's Reinhardt-ish Lover Come Back to Me, where the well-known singer provides an interesting tension by subtly jarring the backing tempo in her slightly off-rhythm vocal lines soon reflected in a dancingly fragmented middle-eight piano solo. Clever as hell.

Hope Waits is no relation to Tom—not biologically that is—but she absolutely nails Rickie Lee Jones' (a past amour of Tom's) early excellences with a grittier Tom-ish slant in I'll be Satisfied. Paradoxes abound. Then the aptly surnamed Kate Paradise is a feast of pitch perfect singing with an inflection waaaay beyond her young years. Should one want to hear what it means to capture the singer's art with textbook precision and jazzed-up inflection, the chestnut Mean to Me here is a stellar case. If Paradise isn't signed immediately to a major label—well, there's just one more reason we critics are cynical.

Stacey Kent has a waifier wispier voice, seductive in turning Shall We Dance Lolita-esque, while Della Griffin offers a stunningly Billy Holidayed It Could Happen to You, sending the listener back to Harlem and the fermenting 50s, a fitting prelude to Queen Etta's (Etta James) take on Since I Fell for You. James is a byword in blues and even the Stones have long been huge fans entranced by her trad refrains starkly stepping into jazz. Madeleine Peyroux serves up an almost cinematic Dance Me to the End of Love, nearly tart atop a great backing band, and Sophie Milman swings to Lonely in New York, tackling the staves from base to summit, a Stephane Grapelli-ish violin mirroring her supple pyrotechnics. Lastly, Jennifer Hartwick, favored of Phish's Trey Anastasio, takes the tenor down into the torchy standard Lover Man, a read alternatingly sensitive, impassioned, and wistful.

I don't usually cover all the cuts in an anthology but this is one sweet CD, no track less than top-notch, each tantalizing for its educated and heartfelt immersion in the American art, simultaneously aged homage and intimately fresh. I'd like to know who the genius behind Putumayo is because he or she is the equal, over in a kindred but markedly different realm, of Manfred Eicher, the mastermind behind the best label on the planet, ECM.

[For the other stunning Putumayo releases this month, see African Reggae (here), A Jazz and Blues Christmas (here), Acoustic Arabia (here), and Acoustic France (here).]

Track List:

  • Melody Gardot: Goodnite
  • Madeleine Peyroux: Dance Me to the End of Love
  • Cassandra Wilson: Lover Come Back to Me
  • Sophie Milman: Lonely in New York
  • Hope Waits: I'll Be Satisfied
  • Kate Paradise: Mean to Me
  • Jennifer Hartswick: Lover Man
  • Stacey Kent: Shall We Dance?
  • Della Griffin: It Could Happen to You
  • Etta James: Since I Fell for You

Edited by: David N. Pyles

Copyright 2009, Peterborough Folk Music Society.
This review may be reprinted with prior permission and attribution.

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