Friday, January 12, 2018

Donna Singer's Feeling the Jazz

Are you feeling the jazz?

I realize I've been tough on contemporary jazz singers lately. But in their defense I think they're damned if they do and damned if they don't. If they stick to the classics, they're compared unfavorably to the original singers, either the songwriters or the ones who eventually made the tune famous. If they write and sing their own material, well, that's problematic as well because no one seems to be knocking it out of the park lately when it comes to great jazz lyrics. In addition, jazz singers are known for straying from the norm of a classically beautiful voice in order to sound distinctive. Sometimes a voice is naturally suited for jazz, but more often than not the singer adds affectations which aren't so cool.

I mention this because I have quite a few CDs in the review pile that fit this description. When you see them, you know I had to step outside of myself to deliver an objective review. As I've recently said, reviewers shouldn't say whether or not they like a recording. They should provide enough detail and useful comparisons to let the reader decide if the release will please them and their unique tastes. So what does this have to do with Donna Singer?

You probably think this is going to be a tough review for her, but it's not. Singer has a light and delicate voice, which isn't always ideal for jazz. But it's a beautiful voice nonetheless. I'm not sure if her voice is recorded correctly in Feeling the Jazz. It's murky and floats around in the back of the soundstage, disconnected from bassist Doug Richards, pianist Billy Alfred and drummer Mike Cervone. It also sounds heavily processed, the opposite of live and natural. That's too bad, because once you get through all of the vocal artifacts, she has a dreamy voice that's quite seductive. Her fellow musicians are also extraordinary and match her talents. This should be an excellent jazz vocal release, but I suspect that some of the knobs on the mixing board need recalibrating. Everything is drenched in cardboard.

Then there's the title. It's a title that should only be used ironically. I don't want to admit that the title influenced me when it came to evaluating the content, but "feeling the jazz" is one tiny step from "jazz hands." This is a good album, even a strong one, but it needs a little more time in the oven to correct the technical shortcomings.

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