Thursday, January 7, 2010

Jackie Ryan: Doozy

Open Art Records
By Ric Bang • Originally published in The Davis Enterprise, 1.7.10
Buy CD: Doozy

The term “jazz vocalist” is overused by record companies, promoters and even reviewers when describing singers who perform with musicians associated with that same genre; the excuse must be, “If the band plays jazz, then anyone who sings with them is a jazz vocalist.”

Nothing could be further from the truth. The descriptor “jazz vocalist” properly applies to a musician who uses (usually) her voice as an instrument to express actual talent in the jazz vernacular. Their number remains limited: Billie Holiday, Anita O'Day, Shirley Horn, Ella Fitzgerald, Carmen McCrea, Sarah Vaughan, Cleo Laine and Diana Krall come to mind.

Well, we can add Jackie Ryan to that list. She has performed only for the past decade, and while the list of jazz artists with whom she has sung is quite extensive, she issued only two albums during that period. She's better known in England and Japan than in the States, except on the East and West Coasts.

Her voice is perfection; it's elegant, smooth as silk, expressive and swings throughout a 3 1/2 octave range. And, vitally important for jazz, her phrasing is equally impressive.

This double-CD release covers 20 tunes, ranging from 1929's “Do Something” to 2006's spirited “Doozy,” with covers of famous and seldom heard classics that we've grown up with. In addition, this multilingual lady performs a number of beautiful, traditional Brazilian ballads in their native language.

Her backup group swings; she's accompanied by artists such as Cyrus Chestnut (piano), Eric Alexander (sax) and Jeremy Pelt (trumpet/flugelhorn).

A final note: The album packaging is superb, with great artwork and fold-out engineering. It's a very professional touch.

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