By Ric Bang
Buy CD: Listen Here
Why is it that some of our best musicians and vocalists turn out so few albums? Such folks are so great that anything they’d do would sell huge, but — for reasons unknown — they limit production.
Jackie Ryan is an example. I first heard her some years ago, when I was blown away by her album Doozy. Time passed, and my next encounter came when she shared Best of Love Songs, a compilation of tunes she recorded between 2002 and ’06; I was even more impressed by that release. Then ... silence
Until now. Listen Here has just arrived. The gestation took way too long, but it sure was worth the wait!
Beside possessing a voice and style that are second to none, Ryan is smart enough to recognize the importance of back-up musicians. A stellar group headed by Cyrus Chestnut filled the bill for Doozy, while Best of Love Songs featured Tamir Hendleman, Larry Koons, Red Holloway and others. Well, she has done it again. This album features Grammy Award-winner John Clayton (bass), his brother Gerald (piano), Graham Dechter (guitar), Gilbert Castellanos (trumpet), Rickey Woodard (sax) and Obed Calvaire (drums). This sextet swings wonderfully; they’d make almost any vocalist sound good, and they bring out the absolute best in their leading lady here.
As for Ryan, well, she’s still sensational. She has more than a three octave range, her tone is jazz perfect, and her phrasing is exceptional. She really belts it out on “Comin’ Home Baby,” then prompts tears with her renditions of “I Loves You Porgy” and “Throw It Away.” She romps her way through “Gypsy in My Soul” and “Accentuate the Positive,” then cools things down with “Anytime, Anyday, Anywhere.”
Her ballads — “A Time for Love,” “Before We Fall in Love” and “La Puerta” — make you want to slow-dance with a significant other. The latter tune is sung in Spanish, one of three languages in which Ryan is fluent.
My favorite is the title track, Dave Frishberg’s “Listen Here.” Ryan sings this with just Clayton’s piano backing her: a very poignant conclusion to a marvelous album.
But please, Jackie ... let’s not wait so long to hear you again!