Friday, June 16, 2017

Words & Music by Jeannie Tanner on CD

Jeannie Tanner is a Chicago-based jazz musician known for her singing, songwriting and trumpet playing. I'm unfamiliar with her work, which means that I feel a little out of the loop when I receive this, a 2-CD set of her compositions featuring 12 talented vocalists from the Windy City. Who is she? Why should I know her? More importantly, why don't I know her?

The concept is certainly simple--Tanner writes jazz songs that sound like they belong in the Great American Songbook. That's both ambitious and little problematic; Words & Music contains 19 of these songs, tunes that sound familiar with lyrics that constantly discuss lips, promises and the fact that someone's heart belongs to somebody else. I'm sounding flippant and dismissive here, and not because there's a lack of talent behind the project--and that includes Ms. Tanner. It's just that, well, it sounds like an album where somebody hired somebody to write a bunch of songs that sound like standards.

"And we need 'em by Friday!"

That's too bad, because I don't like to disrespect musical performances since it's always a matter of taste. I'm certain that this LP, which is generous in quantity, will be loved by a great deal of people, and I also suspect that a significant percentage of them are from Chicago and know who Jeannie Tanner is. Maybe I shouldn't be reviewing this. Maybe I should discard this post. Not every album that crosses my desk is my cup of tea.

I will be positive by saying that the sound quality is exceptional, and the musical side of these compositions are crisp, lively and professional. The singers--including Rose Colella, Andy Pratt, Tammy McCann and of course Tanner--possess an interesting cross-section of styles, and it's clear that Tanner took extra care in choosing the right singer for each song. I just wish that the "words" part of Words & Music was a little more daring and adventurous and not so prone to cliches. For instance, a song titled "Vegas" shouldn't be discussing the danger of the town as something naughty, exciting and adventurous unless it mentions standing at the ATM machine at Cheetah's or winds up with a final stanza that takes place in an Albertsons parking lot in the north part of town after midnight and involves a 90-year-old guy with no teeth named Joe.

But that's just me.

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