Live Jazz: Jackie Ryan in a Jazz Bakery Movable Feast at the Musicians Institute
Los Angeles. Jackie Ryan made one of her far too rare Southland appearances on Saturday night. The program was a Jazz Bakery Movable Feast at the Musicians Institute featuring Ryan with the stellar backing of tenor saxophonist Rickey Woodard, pianist Tamir Hendelman, drummer Dean Koba and bassist Alex Frank.
That's an impressive combination of talent, and the result was a stunning blend of vocal and instrumental jazz.
Ryan has always been a versatile, expressive singer, comfortable in several languages, an effective interpreter of bossa nova classics often in their original Portuguese. Add to that her strong sense of rhythmic swing and effective story-telling mastery.
Those qualities, and more, were all present in her dynamic Saturday night appearance. Additionally noticeable in her rendering of an appealing program of songs were Ryan's engaging entertainment skills. Interacting humorously with her highly receptive audience, sharing the spotlight with Woodard and the other players, introducing songs with a narrative describing their background, she offered a complete package, energized by the rich jazz qualities that are at the center of her performance art.
Among the highlights of an evening filled with memorable moments: a group of warmly intimate Brazilian songs from Milton Nascimento and Antonio Carlos Jobim, highlighted by an especially touching version of Jobim's "Louisa"; a passionate rendering of "I Love You Porgy," prefaced by Ryan's telling of the song's meaning in the context of the opera Porgy and Bess; a briskly swinging "I Just Found Out About Love"; a laid-back "Sleeping Bee"; a soaring, blues-driven take on "Georgia," featuring a scene-stealing solo from Woodard; and more.
Ryan was backed throughout by the sort of sturdy support that most singers dream of having, and often do not. Hendelman's highly praised accompaniment for singers was present in every note he played; Koba and Frank laid down an irresistibly bouyant rhythmic flow; and Woodard's playing, as noted above, provided the perfect, musically illuminating musical partnership.
The only thing missing in this otherwise superb musical evening was a second set. And when we left the theatre, the only remaining desire was the wish for Ryan to make more frequent trips south to gift L.A. with the many pleasures of her music.By Don Heckman
By Don Heckman
LIVE JAZZ: JACKIE RYAN AT VITELLO'S
Studio City CA. Jackie Ryan's appearance at Vitello's Monday night was one of the most musically gripping performances of recent memory. Listening to her two extended sets of songs before an enthusiastic, packed house crowd, I found myself wishing that the entire evening had been videotaped.
Why? In part for the pleasure of Ryan fans who couldn't make the gig (or those who, like me, did but who would love to have a video for future enjoyment). And in part because a video of her performance could well have served as a virtual seminar in song for vocal classes in university jazz programs around the world.
None of all this, of course, was in Jackie's mind as she kicked off the evening with a light hearted romp through the often-covered Bob Dorough/Ben Tucker tune, 'Comin' Home Baby." Music, not video, was clearly her focus - music reaching across the spectrum from blues to ballads to bossa nova, with a lot of other enchanting stops along the way.
Beyond that, and at the heart of all her interpretations, it was Jackie's musical story-telling gifts - as a singer and an actress — that brought her songs vividly to life, regardless of their style or substance. More than almost any other jazz singer I've seen lately, she is an irresistible communicator.
Jackie was superbly supported by the world class ensemble of tenor saxophonist Rickey Woodard, trumpeter John Reynolds, guitarist Graham Dechter, pianist Gerald Clayton, bassist John Clayton and drummer Jeff Hamilton. Most of the players (with Reynolds replacing Gilbert Castellanos and Hamilton replacing Obed Calvaire) were present on Jackie's highly regarded CD, Listen Here. And her program was completely dedicated to a live, in-performance look at some of the musically and dramatically rich collection of songs on the album.
The highlights came, one after another.
A lovely bolero, "La Puerta," chosen to honor Jackie's Mexican mother, was done as a musically intimate duet between Jackie's voice and Dechter's guitar. Dechter also played an equally vital role in "Chega de Saudade" ("No More Blues"), sung in English and Portuguese. The piece was wrapped up with a delightful coda in which Jackie did a stunning vocal simulation of Brazilian percussion.
Pianist Gerald Clayton played with similar finesse on several tunes, including some full-out gospel piano accompaniment as Jackie preached her way through "Accentuate the Positive," done with the verse. And Clayton's subtle touch, a vital element in almost every number, was especially well crafted in his accompaniment for Jackie's poignant rendering of "I Loves You Porgy."
In some of the more lively songs, the horn players provided dynamic instrumental backing, often soloing between vocal choruses, with trumpeter Reynolds delivering in laid-back Chet Baker style and saxophonist Woodard dipping into the warm seductiveness of Ben Webster-like phrasing. Bassist Clayton and drummer Hamilton meanwhile served as the dependable rhythmic engine, keeping everything on track.
And there was more: standards such as "How Little We Know" and "The Gypsy in My Soul," more offbeat items including "How Long?" "To the Ends of the Earth" and Dave Frishberg's "Listen Here" (the album title song). Add a pair of relatively new songs: "Rip Van Winkle" by Jon Mayer and Mark Winkler, and a new tune with lyrics by the Bergmans and music by John Clayton - "Before We Fall In Love."
Finally, Jackie wrapped this remarkable evening with a romp through "Red Top" featuring both her scatting and her vocalese in another vivid display of her extraordinary abilities.
Reveling in this climactic ending, one could only hope that she will increase the number of her too-rare appearances in the Southland. Either that, or start providing some videos for her fans who would like to have more frequent contact with Jackie Ryan and her music.
By Don Heckman
Reviewed Robert L. Daniels on Variety.com
In her Gotham debut at Lincoln Center, jazz thrush Jackie Ryan had the added luxury of Cyrus Chestnut, the big piano player with big hands and big chords, who provided bold and lushly flavored accompaniment. A strikingly handsome brunette with an engrossing smile, Ryan is an adventurous, rangy contralto whose voice comfortably eases from velvet to brass with defining authority. Poised and direct, the lady made a deftly assured Big Apple bow.
Based in San Francisco, Ryan has been a fixture at Ronnie Scott's in London for the past eight years. She's not easy to pigeonhole, as her style is varied and reflective of many hip vocalists. What set her apart Monday was a repertoire of freshly minted and rarely heard tunes.
Ryan's phrasing may reflect some familiar echoes of the past, namely Betty Carter and Billie Holiday, yet she invests her own subtle interpretive sense of emotional truth. The singer personalized "Midnight Sun" the jazz classic by Lionel Hampton and Sonny Burke, to which Johnny Mercer added an "aurora borealis" that became the envy of all lyricists. Ryan's gorgeous space walk was cushioned by the warming tenor sax of guest Eric Alexander.
Her flavorful Portuguese turn with a caressing medley of tunes by Antonio Carlos Jobim defined romanticism. And the lady can swing. For the infectiously bluesy "Opportunity Please Knock" by Oscar Brown Jr., trumpeter Jeremy Pelt offered the accent of a biting growl. "Oh Baby, Come Do Somethin'," a 77-year-old jump tune by Sam Stept, served as an extravagant ride for both Ryan and Chestnut.
For a bluesy "Tell Me More and More, and Then Some," a tune composed by Lady Day herself, Pelt added the biting essence of old New Orleans. Ryan demonstrated she could handle it all with her savvy interpretive jazz vocalizing. The lady is a disciplined and resourceful singer, and she is more then ready for an extended run in a Manhattan venue.
|with Jeff Chambers|
"She is a composite of Betty Carter, Sarah Vaughan and Morgana King ... She was good when she was here 10 years ago - she's outrageous now."
Director, MAUI JAZZ SOCIETY
former music director, DUFFY'S BACKSTAGE Jazz Club of New York
"One of the essential female vocalists on the scene today. Her voice is a priceless sonic masterpiece, and her capacity to use it across five octaves and an equal number of languages is, simply put, stunning. To see Jackie Ryan is a treat; to hear her is a majestic experience."
- JAZZ NOW Magazine
The formidable jazz vocalist Jackie Ryan ....her musicality is subtle and strong, and her range (within a pretty orthodox blues-and-standards idiom) is often startling.
Although jazz instrumentalists sometimes pull rank on singers for having it easy, the reverse often seems to hold -- and not only for musical reasons. Lyrics are manipulations of the materials of everyday social exchange; they tempt the performer to come nearer the audience, sometimes to the point of clouding the message, whereas the tumbling patterns bursting from a saxophone infuse personality within the sound, and allow the perpetrator to be a more distant figure.
As Ryan demonstrated on a previous visit here with the same band (Brian Cuomo on piano and Joe Gallivan on drums), she can turn up all the raw power of a big-band blues-shouter when she chooses, as she did with an evocative account of "Lonely Woman." At the same time, where some singers can sound self-consciously clever with tricksy, pirouetting jazz, Ryan is light and agile. She exhibits a sonority and pliability of pitch at low registers that recall the late Betty Carter.
Ryan is as hip as anyone in her timing and sense of space, but has a refreshing indifference to presentational hipness. She described the story of a Jon Hendricks bop song about childhood with a warmth that paid no mind to those late-night inhabitants of jazz clubs who believe that the mention of children is sacrilegious. The sensitive Gallivan on drums and the resourceful Cuomo on keyboards (he often keeps up a left-hand synth bassline while rattling through uptempo melodies on the regular piano with the right) give Ryan fine support.
|with Tony Johnson, Steve Campos and Terry Gibbs
American vocalist Jackie Ryan again treated the audience at Ronnie's to a feast of jazz vocalisation when she appeared at the club in April, accompanied as usual by pianist Brian Cuomo and drummer Joe Gallivan. Jazz House recorded them at their previous appearance in March 2000, and their album Whisper Not (JHCD 066) is the impressive result. The sensitive Gallivan and the resourceful Cuomo give Jackie sympathetic support on a collection of songs such as Duke Ellington, Benny Golson and Horace Silver, along with standards by the Gershwins, and a stunning version of the Jimmy Van Heusen/Johnny Mercer tune "I Thought About You." Jackie Ryan is a real discovery, and we are proud to have her vocal talent on the label. Don't miss this album -- it's jazz singing at it's best.-Derek Everett