Tuesday, April 05, 2005

Carolyn Leonhart - New 8th Day

Ok, time for a CD review. But first, a disclaimer. We get a lot of cds at KFSR. Record labels, artists, and promoters, flood our mailbox with more cds a week than you could possibly listen to. Luckily in the jazz world, most of them are pretty good. I try to give unknown or up and coming artists a good listen, just as much as the Marsalises and Diana Kralls of the world. But one of my pet peeves is really lame albums from female vocalists. We get a TON of these "Holiday Inn Singers" albums every month. They all have the same songs (well worn standards), done the same way (without much creativity), with a pedestrian rhythm section that's just there for the paycheck. And did I mention most of the singers aren't frankly all that talented? And one last thing - all the album covers for these cds must have been from the same photoshoot! (or so it seems)

Well, that said, vocalist Carolyn Leonhart's new cd New 8th Day is none of the above. Yes, there are some standards, (I'm In the Mood For Love, Whisper Not, If I Should Lose You, etc) but they aren't the worn out ones that only artists like Shirley Horn and Cassandra Wilson should be allowed to touch. They're familiar tunes, but they're fresh. And they're all given fresh, but not contrived arrangements, very creative as a whole. And Carolyn has a great voice, fresh, yet mature, and nuanced. And Carolyn's band is one of the best I've heard backing a young singer in a long time, one which includes pianist Hans Glawischnig, and Carolyn's husband, saxophonist Wayne Escoffery.

Carolyn is the daughter of jazz bassist/songwriter Jay Leonhart, who has his own excellent new cd out, called "Cool". You may remember Carolyn, for she graced the cover of Jazziz Magazine a few years ago, for a story on female artists in jazz. As I recall, the article compared many of the singers to Norah Jones, who was then fresh off her big Grammy win. While I like Norah's work (check out her version of Horace Silver's song Peace one day) Carolyn has the real jazz chops that Norah lacks. One interesting note, both Carolyn and Norah worked with the group Wax Poetic, a jazzy trip hop group from New York. You may have also seen Carolyn out on the road with Steely Dan, as their lead backup singer on their latest tour.

Carolyn also wrote several of the songs on the album, (including the ode to those needing an extra day of the week) Noneday. Nice tunes, good lyrics, with interesting melodic content. Combined with the excellent renditions of standards, New 8th Day really stood out in my seemingly endless cd listening, and we've had some nice calls about it on the radio as well. It takes a mature artist to record an album like this, and hopefully, the fickle jazz press will recognize it as such.


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