Old-Fashio​ned Jazz Music

By: Brendan

Old-Fashioned Jazz music makes me smile. Here are some recommendations:

Primarily comprised of infectiously joyful music to rival the best of the Preservation Hall Jazz Band, The Jumping Notes’ Lover Come Back To Me is one of my favorite albums ever. Big and brassy and beautiful, there is not one bad track to be found on it. One highlight however is their version of Sidney Bechet’s “Si Tu Vois Ma Mere” – Bechet’s version opened Woody Allen’s Midnight in Paris.

I stumbled upon Tuba Skinny when researching Jazz great Al Cohn – the band’s cornetist Shay Cohn is his granddaughter. Check out music by Tuba Skinny at abc.au and below…

There is something warm and wonderful about The Bryan Ferry Orchestra’s The Jazz Age. Ferry reworked his old material as 1920’s jazz instrumentals – fire up the Victrola folks!

Ferry also adapted music by other contemporary artists into an approximation of 1920’s Jazz for Baz Luhrmann’s The Great Gatsby.

Molly Ringwald: Except Sometimes

Yes, that Molly Ringwald. Her debut album, Except Sometimes, was released in April. It’s taken me this long to review it, because I’ve wanted to like it so much more than I actually do. I’ve always loved just about anything Molly Ringwald does – from her Pretty in Pink acting years to her successful transformation into an author – so I wish I could say I love her album, but my feelings remain very mixed.

Molly doesn’t have the strongest voice, but it has a pleasant enough tone well suited to what I would call parlour jazz. I definitely wouldn’t recommend this album for jazz purists — jazz fanatic Brendan, for one, couldn’t stand it.

Let’s get the bad out of the way first. Molly’s voice simply lacks the heat necessary for the sultry opener “Sooner Or Later,” particularly if you’ve heard the Madonna version. And “I Believe In You” is so irksome and bland I can’t help but feel “a rose by any other name” could not have gotten this record deal.

Yet there is plenty of good to be found here. I really like the sweet, melancholy tone she takes on in “I Get Along Without You Very Well (Except Sometimes).” “The Very Thought Of You” and “Where Is Love?” also fit Molly’s voice like a glove.

That’s really how the entire album goes: lovely ballads alternating with not-so-lovely, uptempo missteps. I’m sure Molly Ringwald is used to her name opening doors for her only to suffer harsher criticism than an unknown talent would, but I really don’t think that’s the case here.

The great news is the album is worth purchasing solely for her stripped down, jazz ballad cover of “Don’t You (Forget About Me)” – the Simple Minds hit from The Breakfast Club soundtrack. That final track makes me think Molly would be much better off doing an album of pop hits transformed into jazz songs rather than an album of jazz standards such as this one. You can hear Molly sing portions of the song and talk about the inspiration (namely, John Hughes) for recording it in the video below…

Buy @ Amazon

Molly Ringwald Official Site

Dayna Kurtz: Secret Canon Vol. 2

Dayna Kurtz’ new album, Secret Canon Vol. 2, is a thing of beauty. The followup to last year’s Secret Canon 1, Secret Canon Vol. 2 is a collection of rare blues and jazz covers from the 1940-60s with a few originals in the same vein. Dayna calls the album her “New Orleans record.” It’s bluesy, it’s bold and so very, very classic.

I was shocked to discover that the opener “I Look Good in Bad” is a Dayna Kurtz original. The song structure, lyrics and instrumentation seem so classic it could easily be a Bessie Smith cover. It’s one of many songs on the album that showcase the rich and robust range of Dayna’s voice. M.C. Records was kind enough to allow me to share the song, which you can stream below.

Dayna also delivers a stunningly beautiful and emotive rendering of the vintage soul ballad “Reconsider Me” — originally recorded by Johnny Adams, but probably best known as a 1970s country hit by Narvel Felt. You can stream that song at MC Records.

Other highlights include “One More Kiss,” “Same Time, Same Place,” “All I Ask is Your Love” and “I’ll Be a Liar.”

I love, love, love this album. Fiercely, immensely, wholeheartedly. It reminds me of the first time I heard Dayna’s magnificent voice at Mountain Stage in 2002 (sadly my Muruch review of that concert was lost in the great archive disaster of 2005). I had never heard of Dayna before that concert, which I attended to see Natalie Merchant. Dayna walked out onto the stage, sat down in a wooden chair, and tuned her guitar for a few minutes without saying a word. Then she opened her mouth to sing “Love Gets in the Way” (from Postcards from Downtown) and her extraordinary, soaring voice commanded the attention of every single audience member. Like the classic songs she chose to cover on Secret Canon Vol. 2, Dayna’s voice just gets better with age.

Buy @ Amazon

SoundCloud stream uploaded w/ permission of M.C. Records

Dayna Kurtz Official Site

Heather Masse and Dick Hyman: Lock My Heart

Guest Review By: Brendan

From Bostridge/Drake to Bennett/Evans, some of my favorite music consists of one voice and one piano. I now have another pairing to add to the list. Pianist Dick Hyman and vocalist Heather Masse met at A Prairie Home Companion and have since made beautiful music together on their new album, Lock My Heart.

Featured on the first Joy Kills Sorrow album, Heather Masse is perhaps best known for her work as part of The Wailin’ Jennys. Having grown up listening to Billie Holiday and Ella Fitzgerald, her roots are in jazz music and I am very glad she has rediscovered her love of the genre. Masse also sounds great on her 2008 jazz EP Many Moons, on which I especially like her take on “Secret Love.”

Dick Hyman has worked extensively as a jazz pianist since the 1950s and collaborated with Woody Allen on several soundtracks. You can hear some of his solo piano work on this recording from NPR’s Piano Jazz.

The songs selected for Lock My Heart represent some of the best of the Great American Songbook. Masse’s voice is smooth as the usual similes – silk, chocolate, melted butter – throughout until the final track when she playfully switches personalities.

Highlights of the collection include the wonderful opening tracks “Bewitched, Bothered and Bewildered” and “Lullaby of Birdland.” Her version of the oft-recorded Ellington classic “I’ve Got it Bad and That Ain’t Good” is, in my view, only surpassed by Nina Simone’s recording. Masse’s control of the lyric and the emotion she inflects are tremendous.

Perhaps the most exciting aspect of this album is the inclusion of two original tracks penned by Masse, “If I called You” and “Morning Drinker.” Both songs fit perfectly alongside the magnificent classics on the album and give me hope for the future of the torch song.

For a limited time, you can preview the collection here. I’d also like to commend Red House Records for delivering a beautifully packaged CD and thank West Virginia Public Radio’s Sidetracks for bringing this album to my attention.