33 Women in Jazz – Fabulous Singing, Part 2

Sara Gazarek

The past decade has been a great one for lovers of jazz singing with most of the exciting music coming from women singers. In this hour of Jazz at 100 Today!, we will complete our survey, begun in the last program, of 20 releases of 15 female vocalists performing songs from the Great American Songbook, contemporary pop tunes and their own compositions. We are celebrating Women’s History Month on Jazz at 100 Today!

Tierney Sutton, Norma Winstone, René Marie and Karrin Allyson
Tierney Sutton’s 2014 disc Paris Sessions was a trio session with guitarist Serge Merlaud and bassist Kevin Axt. Merlaud wrote the haunting Izaat, performed with wordless vocal. At AllAboutJazz, the ever perceptive Dan Bilawsky wrote, “Hearing the Paris Sessions is to hear Sutton anew. Sure, it’s that same one-of-a-kind voice, but there’s no Tierney Sutton Band here, incredibly novel arrangements aren’t a priority on this one, and there’s no grand umbrella theme to contend with. This is simply a captivating listen-by-candlelight album that strikes to the heart of Tierney Sutton. Paris Sessions is easily the most informal item in Sutton’s discography, but the idea of informality shouldn’t carry a negative connotation; quite the opposite, in fact. This is a work of unfiltered beauty, successfully pairing vocal temptress with guitar and bass guitar.”

There are disproportionately few vocal discs in the ECM catalog, but Norma Winstone’s releases would stand out anywhere. Her 2014 disc, Dance Without Answer, is a trio affair with Klaus Gesing on bass clarinet and Glauco Vernier on piano. She captures the beauty of Tom Waits’ San Diego Serenade in a duo with Gesing. John Kelman writes, “Winstone’s soft delivery juxtaposes with Gesing’s singular combination of melodic counterpoint and percussive punctuation.”

René Marie utilizes several different-sized ensembles in Sound of Red, her first release of all-original material. Her positive and aspirational Stronger Than You Think is performed with only Elias Bailey on bass and Quinten Baxter on drums supporting Marie’s dark and rich vocals.

Karrin Allyson’s 2015 release was a compilation of songs of Rodgers and Hammerstein from Oklahoma!South PacificThe King and I and The Sound of Music. Something Good, from The Sound of Music, leverages the closeness of the trio of Kenny Barron on piano and John Pattitucci on bass to full measure in an intimate reading of the ballad.

Izaat. Tierney Sutton Trio
(Serge Merlaud-g, Kevin Axt-b, Tierney Sutton-voc). From Paris Sessions. BFM Jazz. 2014.
San Diego Serenade. Norma Winstone – Klaus Gesing duo
(Klaus Gesing-bcl, Norma Winstone-voc). From Dance Without Answer. ECM. 2014.
Stronger Than You Think. René Marie Trio
(Elias Bailey-b/voc, Quentin Baxter-d/voc, Rene Marie-voc). From Sound of Red. Motema. 2016.
Something Good. Karrin Allyson Trio
(Kenny Barron-p, John Patitucci-b, Karrin Allyson-voc). From Many A New Day: Karrin Allyson Sings Rodgers & Hammerstein. Motema. 2015.

Catherine Russell, Rene Marie and Kate McGarry
Catherine Russell comes from a substantial musical pedigree. Her father, Luis Russell, was the musical director for Louis Armstrong’s Big Band and her mother, Carline Ray, was a member of the International Sweethearts of Rhythm. After a successful career as a backup singer to groups like Steely Dan and David Bowie, she transitioned to a headliner in the past dozen years, making a series of well-received records of vintage jazz such as the title tune to her 2011 disc Inside This Heart of Mine – a 1938 Fats Waller composition.

Rene Marie is nothing if not unpredictable. Her 2013 release I Wanna Be Evil: With Love to Eartha Kitt was Marie’s first ever tribute record and, surprisingly, the first ever recorded tribute to Eartha Kitt. Kitt was as idiosyncratic and iconoclastic as Marie in her own time. Marie teams with the groans and freak notes of Wycliff Gordon’s trombone to present Cole Porter’s 1928 Let’s Do It (Let’s Fall in Love.)

Gone with The Wind, another vintage song, composed in 1937 by Allie Wrubel with lyrics by Herb Magidson, is included on Kate McGarry’s 2018 trio release, The Subject Tonight is Love. Jerome Wilson writes, on AllAboutJazz, ”Gone With The Wind [is] performed in a loose and playful improvisational style, with McGarry singing wispily over [Gary] Versace’s prickly piano chords and [Keith] Ganz’s electric bass.”

Inside This Heart of Mine. Catherine Russell Quartet
(Mark Shane-p, Matt Munizteri-g, Lee Hudson-b, Catherine Russell-voc). From Inside This Heart of Mine. World Village. 2011.
Let’s Do It (Let’s Fall In Love). René Marie Quintet
(Wycliffe Gordon-tb, Kevin Bales-p, Elias Bailey-b, Quentin Baxter-d/per, Rene Marie-voc). From I Wanna Be Evil (With Love to Eartha Kitt). Motema. 2013.
Gone With The Wind. Kate McGarry – Keith Ganz – Gary Versace Trio
(Gary Versace-p/key/org/acc, Keith Ganz-g/b, Kate McGarry-voc/p). From The Subject Tonight is Love. Binxtown Records. 2018.

Catherine Russell, Vanessa Rubin, and Sara Gazarek
Coming back to Catherine Russell – her 2014 release Bring It Back, includes a very personal tune, Lucille. The song was composed by her father for Louis Armstrong but lost in the Armstrong archives and never recorded until now.

Vanessa Rubin’s 2019 release The Dream is You is a rare window into the remarkable work of the be-bop romantic Tadd Dameron. In his review, Jerome Wilson wrote, ”Whatever Possessed Me may be the single most beautiful track on the CD, thanks to Rubin’s angelic singing and the swooning horns in Jimmy Heath’s arrangement. Alex Harding’s baritone is a secret weapon of this and many other tracks in the way his sax wraps around the horn ensembles like smoke, giving them a lush gravity.”

We started the first of these two programs with Sara Gazarek in a duet with pianist Josh Nelson and we’ll finish up with her larger ensemble 2019 effort Thirsty Ghost. Her octet version of Frank Loesser’s Never Will I Marry references the 1961 classic by Nancy Wilson and Cannonball Adderley.

Lucille. Catherine Russell Tentet
(Jon-Erik Kellso-tp, Brian Pareschi-tp, John Allred-tb, Dan Block-as, Andy Farber-ts, Mark Lopeman-bs, Mark Shane-p, Lee Hudson-b, Mark McLean-d, Catherine Russell-voc). From Bring it Back. Jazz Village. 2014.
Whatever Possessed Me. Vanessa Rubin Nonet
(Eddie Allen-tp, Clifton Anderson-tb, Bruce Williams-as, Patience Higgins-ts, John Cowherd-p, Kenny Davis-b, Carl Allen-d, Vanessa Rubin-voc). From The Dream Is You Vanessa Rubin Sings Tadd Dameron. BNibur Records. 2019.
Never Will I Marry. Sara Gazarek Octet
(Ido Meshulam-tb, Josh Johnson-ts, Brian Walsh-bcl, Stu Mindeman-p, Alex Boneham-b, Christian Euman-d, Sara Gazarek-voc, Keita Ogawa-per). From Thirsty Ghost. Self-Produced. 2019.

The past decade has been a fertile period for jazz singing women. This and the previous program have presented fifteen of the best, illustrating the wide diversity of material, style and instrumentation employed by these creative women.

Bilawsky, Dan. (2014, August 28). Tierney Sutton: Paris Sessions. https://www.allaboutjazz.com/paris-sessions-tierney-sutton-bfm-jazz-review-by-dan-bilawsky.php

Kelman, John. (2014, February 11). AllAboutJazz. Norma Winstone / Glauco Vernier / Klaus Gesing: Dance Without Answer. https://www.allaboutjazz.com/norma-winstone-dance-without-answer-by-john-kelman.php

Loudon, Christopher. (2016, July 17). JazzTimes. René Marie: Sound of Red. https://jazztimes.com/reviews/albums/rene-marie-sound-of-red/

Bailey, C. Michael. (2015, October 12). AllAboutJazz. Karrin Allyson: Many A New Day: Karrin Allyson Sings Rodgers And Hammerstein. https://www.allaboutjazz.com/many-a-new-day-karrin-allyson-sings-rodgers-and-hammerstein-karrin-allyson-motema-music-review-by-c-michael-bailey.php

Hillman, Marcia. (2010, May 13). AllAboutJazz. Catherine Russell: Inside This Heart Of Mine. https://www.allaboutjazz.com/inside-this-heart-of-mine-catherine-russell-world-village-review-by-marcia-hillman.php

Bailey, C. Michael. (2013, December 5). AllAboutJazz. Rene Marie: I Wanna Be Evil: With Love To Eartha Kitt. https://www.allaboutjazz.com/i-wanna-be-evil-with-love-to-eartha-kitt-rene-marie-motema-music-review-by-c-michael-bailey.php

Wilson, Jerome. (2018, February 26). AllAboutJazz. Kate McGarry: The Subject Tonight Is Love. https://www.allaboutjazz.com/the-subject-tonight-is-love-kate-mcgarry-self-produced-review-by-jerome-wilson.php

Bailey, C. Michael. (2014, February 11). AllAboutJazz. Catherine Russell: Bring It Back. https://www.allaboutjazz.com/bring-it-back-catherine-russell-harmonia-mundi-jazz-village-music-review-by-c-michael-bailey.php

Wilson, Jerome. (2019, May 13). AllAboutJazz. Vanessa Rubin: The Dream Is You: Vanessa Rubin Sings Tadd Dameron. https://www.allaboutjazz.com/the-dream-is-you-vanessa-rubin-sings-tadd-dameron-vanessa-rubin-nibur-records-review-by-jerome-wilson.php

Wilson, Jerome. (2019, September 4). AllAboutJazz. Sara Gazarek: Thirsty Ghost. https://www.allaboutjazz.com/thirsty-ghost-sara-gazarek-self-produced-review-by-jerome-wilson.php

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