After enjoying accolades while singing, performing and touring with icons in numerous genres as a support artist, La Tanya Hall re-emerges as a multi-faceted jazz vocalist and interpreter extraordinaire with her first full-length album in a decade.
Though her gorgeous, emotionally intuitive vocals take center stage, the expansive collection is, at heart, a collaborative effort with Unison, a newly formed NYC trio led by Hall’s husband Andy Milne on piano, featuring John Hebert on bass and Clarence Penn on drums. Say Yes was produced and arranged by Milne, a distinct and respected voice at the heart of NYC’s creative jazz scene for over 20 years.
While Say Yes is technically a follow-up to La Tanya’s 2009 recording, It’s About Time, she sees Say Yes as the first project that is a true reflection of her artistic spirit. Fans wondering why it took her so many years to return to the studio can look to her busy schedule touring these past seven years with Steely Dan – and her 10-year career as an instructor, passing along her experience and expertise to the next generation of singers as Associate Professor of Jazz Voice at Oberlin Conservatory and at The New School in NYC.
Over the years, La Tanya’s versatility in a multitude of genres has made her a first-call vocalist for some of music’s most celebrated artists, including Diana Ross, Bobby McFerrin, Harry Belafonte, Michael McDonald, Burt Bacharach, Quincy Jones, Aretha Franklin, Rob Thomas, Patti Labelle, Michael Feinstein and Steve Tyrell. Developing her solo artistry, she has performed in recent years at some of New York’s most renowned venues, including Jazz at Lincoln Center, Birdland, Symphony Space, Iridium, and Feinstein’s/54 Below. In addition, she has appeared as a soloist with the American Composer’s Orchestra, The Colorado Symphony, the Jefferson Symphony and the St. Louis Symphony.
“I have been busy singing with everybody else,” La Tanya says, “and even though my first album received critical acclaim, it featured arrangements that I couldn’t fully immerse myself in vocally and as an artist. So, with Say Yes, I was eager to present material that would support and showcase my disposition and broad range of musical tastes. Working so closely with my husband afforded me a trusting, collaborative dynamic that allowed me to sing as fully and as freely as I could."
Besides her exquisite vocal tone and Milne’s elegant arrangements and piano work, the most remarkable aspect of Say Yes is La Tanya’s unique choices of material – a set list that truly reflects her deep musical curiosity, spanning generations and many genres. She reaches outside the jazz realm with lush re-imaginings of folk-rocker Jonatha Brookes’ “Because I Told You So” (which the singer calls “the most personal song on the album to me”) and Joni Mitchell’s “The Fiddle and the Drum” – a Vietnam era tune whose poetry resonates perfectly in response to today’s intense socio-political climate. Another remarkable theme that La Tanya develops with this recording is the decision to re-interpret classic jazz pieces that originated as instrumentals before lyrics were added later. These include “All You Need To Say,” which first appeared as the instrumental “Never Say Yes” on Cannonball Adderley’s 1961 album with Nancy Wilson; Benny Golson’s “Whisper Not,” whose lyrics were added later by Leonard Feather; “Pannonica,” Thelonious Monk’s tribute to elusive “patron saint of jazz” Pannonica de Koenigswarter, with lyrics added later by Jon Hendricks; another Monk-Hendricks classic, “Well You Needn’t”; and Clare Fischer’s “Pensativa,” whose lyrics were later penned by Norma Winstone.
In addition, La Tanya reaches back to 1944 and revamps Cole Porter’s classic, “Ev’ry Time We Say Goodbye,” incorporating a Pablo Neruda poem which adds new life to the already powerful lyrics, to 1942 for a fresh, bourbon-soaked spin on Fats Waller’s “Jitterbug Waltz,” and to 1916 for the Raymond Hubbell tune “Poor Butterfly,” – the latter of which is a part of La Tanya’s Sarah Vaughan tribute show.
Nineteen year old Kalen Henry explodes onto the scene with her debut album, “Not Forgotten”, an exploration of the love songs from the catalog of Nat King Cole. Ms. Henry explores these classic love songs with spacious country and pop instrumentation that perfectly supports her sultry Norah Jones-style voice. The result is a current presentation of classic jazz standards that intimates at every turn Joni Mitchell’s folk-pop exploration into the jazz world.
The idea for this project came simply from a high school choir final that Ms. Henry performed with her father, Trey Henry. The duo performed “Orange Colored Sky” (track 3) and the response encouraged her to explore her growing love of Nat King Cole’s work. “I decided to take the ten love songs that I love the most and order them in a way that depicts a love story”, says Ms. Henry.
“Not Forgotten strikes the perfect balance between old and new”, says Trey Henry. Mr. Henry, Kalen’s father, is a renowned bass player, arranger, producer and performer. He has logged performance credits over the years with Henry Mancini, Johnny Cash, Linda Ronstadt, Quincy Jones, Ray Charles and Natalie Cole to name just a few. Performing with the Tierney Sutton Band, he has recorded eight albums earning five Grammy nominations. Mr. Henry produced, arranged and played bass on “Not Forgotten”.
“Not Forgotten” opens with “Straighten Up and Fly Right”, written by Nat King Cole in 1943. The song spent ten weeks on the Hit Parade and was number 1 on the pop charts. It is based on a folk tale that Mr. Cole’s father told as a theme for one of his sermons. The track opens to an ambient, ringing foundation when Ms. Henry enters with the fable. Her sultry jazz-pop, resonant mood is immediately head-turning. As the song builds, the listener is treated to bluegrass-tinged, guitar and mandolin (Paul Viapiano - The Chemistry of Crying, LA Philharmonic) based feel and a groove that really moves the audience.
The fourth track on “Not Forgotten” leads with a rhythmic acoustic guitar and follows with Kalen Henry’s haunting expression of awe at the purity and emotion in her love’s eyes. Simple and sweet, the song builds with bass and drums (Ray Brinker - Maynard Ferguson, Ray Charles, Natalie Cole) supporting perfectly the pulsating guitar. The mood escalates but never spills over and leaves the audience captivated as Ms. Henry sails the mystery of “your eyes...your eyes...your eyes...”.
“Not Forgotten” by Kalen Henry is the best debut album that you will hear this year. It is the most listenable fusion of jazz, pop and country since Alison Krauss burst onto the scene...and pop-folk radio is long overdue. Kalen Henry’s tribute raises the bar to ensure that Nat King Cole is “Not Forgotten”.
“I'm living the dream, I'd say” - Kalen Henry
Henderson, NV (July 6th, 2018) - Blue Canoe Records releases "Animazonia" from Turkish-born world musician Melbreeze. The ninth release from this creative world musician started as a Brazilian jazz effort but culminated into a compilation of authentic Brazilian music fused with world, jazz and dance flavors. Melbreeze's passion for world music and stubbornly authentic recreation of Brazilian palettes make for a truly unique creation that demands a close listen.
Melbreeze is a prolific creator that, in true world music fashion, is hard to define. She seamlessly moves from her Turkish roots to Spanish flamenco to South American dance and does so with some of the best musicians and producers in the world. "Animazonia" is produced by Scott Kinsey and Jimmy Haslip. Kinsey is the keyboardist for Tribal Tech and has contributed to motion picture soundtracks such as Oceans Eleven and Oceans Twelve while Haslip has been nominated for 33 Grammy awards and has won two with jazz fusion superheroes The Yellowjackets as well as his recent Grammy win with fusion master Jeff Lorber. Melbreeze has recorded and performed with Grammy award composer and keyboardist Bill Cunliffe. She also has an ongoing partnership with Latin Grammy winner and flamenco master Javier Limón.
"Animazonia" opens with a modern, hypnotic dance piece "So Nice". Jimmy Haslip lays down a solid, soulful groove as Melbreeze sets the tone for the album with a dreamy, trance-like vocal invitation that cannot be resisted. Midway through the opening track, Larry Koonse brings in jazzy guitar hooks that develop into a solo with a rock and roll intensity. All of these textures come together in a crescendo until Melbreeze brings it all back to her opening theme. Powerful.
The fourth track on "Animazonia", "How Insensitive", shifts gears into more of a hindi-jazz feel with Knand Kumar bringing colorful sitar meanderings while Uday Kumar Nari provides a balanced pulse on the tabla. Scott Kinsey and Melbreeze provide the hypnosis on this tune on trillian bass and vocals respectively. By the time Larry Koonse's floating guitar solo relieves the sitar "How Insensitive" is reaching a pulsating, heated state as Melbreeze describes the memory of an “insensitive” break up.
"Animazonia" is a must listen from world music veteran Melbreeze. As she continues to blend musical sensibilities from disparate cultures, Melbreeze continues to warm the listener's heart. Melbreeze is a premier example of an elite artist's potential to demonstrate cultural unity and inclusion through art and magical melody.