Entertainment

Listen Here

by Lewis Whittington
Contributor
Wednesday Apr 3, 2013
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Jazz vocalist Jackie Ryan returns to Chris Jazz CafĂ© in Philadelphia as her latest recording "Listen Here" rides high on the jazz charts and is enjoying crossover radio play. Ryan is a versatile jazz singer and audiences in Philly already know from her many appearances, Ryan doesn’t need studio environments, this is a singer who just needs a mic and solid accompaniment.

The 16- track CD opens with "Come on Home," a brassy number that would be otherwise forgettable except for Ryan’s belter style, but it is the pulsing "Till the Ends of the Earth" that shows she is in the league of Shirley Bassey and Lena Horne.’ Subtler vocalese comes with tunes like "Gypsy in my Soul" and most intimately on Abbey Lincoln’s "Throw It Away," already a jazz classic from Lincoln’s recording "A Turtle’s Dream (2000)" The piano accompaniment by Gerald Clayton frames Ryan’s silvery vocal throughout and Ryan’s vocal improv (like Lincoln) is a gorgeous denouement.

Less successful is "Accentuate the Positive" given an almost campy gospel arrangement. Though Ryan can hit the notes, it strikes as too stylized. Working better from the 40s era though, is "Anytime, Anyday, Anywhere" which proves more suited to Ryan, and has an intoxicating lead by bassist John Clayton and his son John Clayton on piano. The relaxed vocal - instrumental handoffs have the feeling of an after hours session. Ryan is in top form vocally, with crystal tone and sultry phrasing. She follows up, with a sensual character reading on Gershwin’s "I Loves you Porgy" in a captivating arrangement with Clayton’s haunting piano allowing it breadth outside of the theatrics of the song.

In contrast the mid- temp "How Little We Know" fits Ryan’s show jazz style perfectly. La Peurtowith Graham Dechter’s guitar accompaniment displays her willingness to dive, with distinction, into material where there is nowhere to vocally hide. Filler numbers like "Rip Van Winkle" sound like 70s stylized pieces suited for Manhattan Transfer, even with its tight orchestral swing; and the honky-tonk boiler ’"o one ever tells you" an I-lost-my-man-blues, are tunes that can be skipped, though both may work better live.

It is hard to hear anyone sing "A Time for Love" without thinking of Shirley Horn’s gold standard, but Ryan handles it beautifully, full-throated and subtle. Ultimately, "Listen Here," is a disjointed collection of tunes, with something for everyone. Still, it is well-recorded displaying Ryan’s many talents. At Chris Jazz Cafe, Ryan is joined by the Philly-based Larry McKenna Quartet.

Lewis Whittington writes about the performing arts and gay politics for several publications.

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