Alyssa Graham: America

Alyssa Graham gives a standout performance on her debut CD, Echo. Like many of the more promising younger jazz vocalists on the scene, Graham adopts an earnest, forthright style of singing that is quite appealing. There are no dark shadows or hidden emotional creases here. She projects herself completely into the psychological space of Paul Simon's song, singing with total honesty and directness. 1960s-era "America" is suddenly transformed into a harsh modern landscape, although you might very well be counting gas-guzzling SUVs on the New Jersey turnpike these days. The band helps with a simmering arrangement and clever reharmonization. Gregoire Maret makes the most of his harmonica solo slot. But Graham is the star here. Okay, she's not a star yet. But just wait and see . . .

July 01, 2008 · 2 comments


Brad Mehldau: Still Crazy After All These Years

Mehldau again shakes up the jazz police by sneaking some Paul Simon lead sheets into the nightclub. A quick check of Tom Lord's massive The Jazz Discography finds only two cover versions of Simon's "50 Ways to Leave Your Lover" listed in its 23,000 virtual pages -- one of them is Mehldau's. Here the pianist turns his attention to the almost equally unlikely jam tune "Still Crazy After All These Years." But Simon crafted a lovely pop-rock waltz and it works in a jazz setting. Mehldau brings out the beauty of the melody and plays with great delicacy. But no Mehldau cover version is without its little surprises. When he gets to the end of the bridge, he lingers . . . and lingers and lingers. If this were a real bridge, say the Golden Gate, the suicide prevention squad would be out in full force by now. Brad grinds out a vamp that sets the poor old bridge swingin' and shakin'. But everything turns out okay, and Mehldau comes back to the main theme in all its glory. He will not be convicted by a jury of his peers, but this musician is still playing crazy after all these years.

December 30, 2007 · 0 comments


Previous Page | Next Page