Wednesday, May 11, 2005

Sometimes I just don't hear it - Lorraine Feather - Dooji Wooji

I listen to a lot of music, and every day hear from countless record promoters about how "great" some cd is, how "important" some artist is for their own bottom line, etc. They all "need a few more spins." Sometimes the hype is justified, sometimes, in my opinion it is not. One of the artists who always gets the big PR push, glowing reviews and all of that is Lorraine Feather, daughter of famed jazz critic Leonard Feather. Lorraine isn't a bad singer, but she's certainly not my cup of tea. Her M.O. is very simple, write cutesy "contemporary" lyrics about everything from cicadas to traffic jams, based upon old, somewhat obscure tunes by Duke Ellington and others. The lyrics never rise to the level of the music, they ramble on and on and never "fit" with the music like Jon Hendricks' lyrics always seem to. It's all about Lorraine, not the music. With Hendricks and other masters of the form, they were more concerned about the brilliance of the song (and when they chose to give them words), the solos. Lorraine's cds also all have the same "sound" quaint retro swing wallpaper, with good musicians like Shelly Berg doing little more in the area of creativity than running through the motions. Lorraine's voice isn't much better. Like the sameness and lack of depth to her A&R formula, her voice is similarly lacking in variety - small, one dimensional, lacking in the expressivity that oozes from up and coming jazz singers such as Dena DeRose, Luciana Souza, Carolyn Leonhart, let alone certified stars Patricia Barber, Cassandra Wilson or Shirley Horn. Those singers tell a story not only with their lyrics, but with their voice. I hear a lot of "unique" stories in Lorraine's lyrics, but not in what she's singing.

I'm not one of those who says that in order to be a jazz singer, you have to "scat" sing. But I do think you need to sing with a little daring, a little creativity, a bit of rhythmic and sometimes melodic variety, etc. And if you're in a swing setting, as Lorraine is, you should also swing! While Lorraine Feather is singing jazz material, with a jazz band, I'm not sure she's a jazz singer. I could be wrong about her music, I've played it on the radio and I probably will in the future, because I think listeners will want to hear it and make up their mind. I could be wrong. There's some critics I respect a lot who disagree. But sometimes, despite all the hype and talk and buzz, (and the prominent jazz family connections!) I just don't hear what those other people are hearing. This is one of them.


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