ALL ABOUT JAZZ Review
Jackie Ryan isn't simply a singer; she's a force of nature. Her voice possesses a weighty power, yet soars with grace and ease. Her ability to transmute into different characters and forms, as dictated by the song, lyrics and style, makes her one in a million and she's managed to parlay that unique gift into project after successful project with some of the best in the business backing her up. This date is no exception.
Ryan recruited bassist/arranger extraordinaire John Clayton to build a band around her voice and he reached out to some of his first-call friends and relatives from the Clayton-Hamilton Jazz Orchestra and the Clayton Brothers Quintet. Together, this group of West Coast jazz elites makes magic. Saxophonist Rickey Woodward preaches from the soul with horn in hand ("Accentuate The Positive"), trumpeter Gilbert Castellanos brings the heat, guitarist Graham Dechter proves to be a wonderful accompanist when Ryan opens up her Spanish heart for all to see ("La Puerta"), and drummer Obed Calvaire shifts effortlessly from style to style.
Each of those individuals adds volumes to the album, but John Clayton and his unbelievably musical offspring—pianist Gerald—prove to be the two most valuable players. The elder Clayton's impeccable time and feel, along with his instincts and arranging skills, help to sell the songs. Gerald Clayton demonstrates an encyclopedic knowledge of styles, sounds and suggestive maneuvers. He can thrive in a dark, brooding and funky headspace ("Comin' Home Baby"), deliver churchy, Richard Tee-like backing without a problem ("Accentuate The Positive") and inhabit a Count Basie-esque, less-is-more mindset (Anytime, Any Day, Anywhere").
As good as the instrumentalists may be—and they are damn good—this date still belongs to Ryan and she makes sure that nobody forgets it. She can proselytize with the best of them ("Accentuate The Positive"), inhabit a Billie Holiday-like space ("Anytime, Any Day, Anywhere"), commune with the blues ("No One Ever Tells You"), deliver brilliantly emotional performances ("Throw It Away," "A Time For Love") and carry directness in her words ("Listen Here"). Her sense of passion for this music comes through at every turn and her skills as an interpreter are second to none.
Listen Here makes an impression in a big way and furthers the already sterling reputation of one of the current vocal treasures in the world of jazz.
- Dan Bilawsky, ALL ABOUT JAZZ