Tag Archives: Sarah McKenzie

Sarah McKenzie – Paris In The Rain – A Review (more or less)

I’ve previously praised the young Australian singer Sarah McKenzie for her last album on Impulse, We Could Be Lovers, have seen her perform live, and mentioned her in my Top 10 Jazz Covers of Pop songs. I was even able to exchange a couple of friendly words with her during the above mentioned concert.

So in a nutshell, I really like her. Hence, when I saw on Facebook that she is about to release a new album, I gotvery excited.

(Side note: following artists I like is one of the few useful purposes for me of Facebook. Why is it that in my generation the only people that regularly post updates are the ones you don’t care about? There seems to be some form of inverse correlation between posting activity and content value, with some rare exceptions)

Paris In the Rain (Impulse 2017)

So, now the album has been out for weeks, and I’m only just about now writing about it.

Sarah McKenzie Paris In The Rain Impulse 2017 (24/96)

Why is that? Well, not because I didn’t listen to it enough. The thing is, I was really trying to like it, but in a way something was just a bit wrong. And I spent the last month trying to put my finger on it.

Is it the singing? Absolutely not, that’s beautiful as ever.

Is it the songs? No, we get standards, like Tea For Two, beautiful ballads, like Little Girl Blue, own compositions such as Paris in the Rain, see below (she also has 4 other own compositions on the album!).

 

 

Is it the musicians? Again, not really. Actually, they do play extremely well. Sarah and Impulse were able to assemble some great musicians here: Mark Whitfield und Romero Lubambo on guitar, Warren Wolf on the vibraphone, Reuben Rogers on bass, Gregory Hutchinson on drums.

The horns are excellent too, from Dominick Farinacci on the trumpet, Jamie Baum on the flute, to Scott Robinson and Ralph Moore on saxphone.

So what is it? It was only when I read that this album was produced again (like the previous one) by Brian Bacchus, when the penny dropped. It is just a bit too perfect! That may sound a bit silly, but the album could use a little bit of “dirtiness” to my ears.

Bacchus, while not a household name, has worked with some of the greatest names in Jazz (e.g. John Scofield). However, he also produced Norah Jones and Gregory Porter. Not that I’m comparing this album to Norah Jones, unlike her this is 100% Jazz, but you get the total perfection of a Norah Jones album. This really doesn’t fully replicate the full energy I felt when I saw her live. I’d really love it if her next album will be a live one!

So why I strongly encourage you to check out this album, I’d even more recommend you see her live. As mentioned, she’s on facebook, and here’s her website that has the tour dates.

My rating: 4 stars

You can find the album here (Qobuz) and here (Prostudiomasters).

My Top 5 Vocal Jazz Albums of 2015

Following my recent post on my top Classical albums of 2015, let me now follow up with my top 5 Vocal Jazz albums for this year.

Note there are a couple of “only” four star albums here, which means I don’t consider them absolutely essential. That said, I very much like all of the below and would recommend them without hesitation.

 

Cecile McLorin Salvant: For One To Love (Mack Avenue 2015)

Cecile McLorin Salvant For One To Love MackAvenue 2015

My Jazz album of the year by an outstanding young talent (review here). I’ve seen her live and this was probably one of my best concerts of the year .

 

Sarah McKenzie: We Could Be Lovers (Impulse 2015)

Sarah McKenzie We Could Be Lovers Impulse 2015

Sarah McKenzie is my other discovery of this year (reviewed here). Less innovative than Cecile McLorin Salvant, she does just old fashioned 1960-style vocal jazz. The thing is, she does it with so much charm and also includes her own originals, I’m convinced we’ll continue hearing from this young artist.

If you can catch her live as I did (see here), go for it, she’s even better live than on this album.

 

Cassandra Wilson: Coming Forth By Day (Legacy Records 2015)

Cassandra Wilson Coming Forth By Day 2015

I’ve said it before, I have a love-hate relationship with Cassandra Wilson. Quite often, she just gets too close to a style that I just don’t like. On this Billie Holiday album, all is well from my perspective (see my review here).

 

Melody Gardot: Currency of Man (Universal 2015)

Melody Gardot - Currency of Man

 

To be fair, this is more Soul than Jazz, but in any case, I really like this album. See my review here.

 

Autour de Nina (Verve 2015)

Autour de Nina Verve Compilation Sophie Hunger Melody Gardot

A beautiful Nina Simone Tribute album from a variety of artists. One of my favorite vocal jazz albums of the year, reviewed here.

Sarah McKenzie at Moods in Zurich (October 12) – What A Concert

Summer Time

As much as I love summer, the one downside of it is that all your music venues close down, and you have to move to obscure places in the middle of nowhere and be there at the right time to catch all these summer festivals.

Well, I unfortunately was mainly at the wrong place at the wrong time, so no concert for me since I started this blog by writing about Keith Jarrett’s solo concert back end of May (wow that’s way too long without a concert).

So I’m very happy to have the venues around me open again, and definitely will be going more regularly back to listen to live music.

Sarah McKenzie

I’ve previously already praised Sarah McKenzie’s new album on Impulse, so I was really looking forward to seeing here live. Business dinners made me miss her several concerts at the Duc des Lombards in Paris last week, so I was very happy to be able to see her at Moods, Zurich’s best Jazz club, on Monday (Oct 12).

And wow, what a concert that was. Let me first talk about her excellent band, with Jo Caleb on guitar, Pierre Boussaguet on bass, and Marco Valeri on drums. I’m not sure if these guys are a regular combo, but the interactivity between them was great. Marco Valeri by the way also plays on the Impulse album mentioned above.

Now you’re going to ask: what, no piano? No, just no extra pianist needed! I had read that Sarah plays the piano herself, but what I didn’t know from the studio produce album is just how well she does this. It’s impressive but she’s swinging and grooving like crazy.

And then you have her voice. The voice isn’t as technically impressive as some of her female Jazz singer contemporaries, but again, what is so amazing is how MUSICAL this entire performance was, you can really feel this is 100% her. It is truly unique, you’ll recognize her immediately. And this is really what makes her special, this full dedication to nothing but music (and having visibly a lot of fun doing just that).

And then there are her song-writing abilities. On We Could Be Lovers you already got some of her own compositions, but her concert was at least half of her own songs, like a very fun tango, or a calypso-style composition inspired by Sonny Rollins St. Thomas. She also played a great Jazz cover of Joni’ Mitchell’s Big Yellow Taxi.

And thankfully we also got to hear Moon River, only guitar and voice, which pretty much left me speechless.

She’s still on tour in Europe, tomorrow (Oct 15) at Ronnie Scott’s in London, if you’re anywhere near one of her concerts, don’t miss it!

My prediction is that Sarah McKenzie will become one of the major Jazz singers of the 21st century, she’s that good.

Sarah McKenzie – Another Outstanding Vocal Jazz Talent

Me And Vocal Jazz

Already in my review of Cécile McLorin Salvant’s album I’ve said that I don’t listen a lot to contemporary vocal jazz. Too many of the albums just sound too interchangeable, without individual character. Cécile McLorin Salvant is one major exception to that rule.

So I didn’t expect a lot when I just clicked on one of the latest new Jazz release on Qobuz’ streaming site, the album “We Could Be Lovers” that was just released on Impulse.

We Could Be Lovers (Impulse 2015)

Sarah McKenzie We Could Be Lovers Impulse 2015

How wrong I was!

After listening for about 3 minutes I noticed that this album really is different, this is not one more of the many jazz vocalists that will never stand out from the crowd.

I then checked her biography and discovered she comes originally from Australia, had received a full scholarship for Berklee, probably the best music school of the planet, and has just signed her first album with Impulse, a label that is doing great things again after being one of the major jazz labels in the 60s (see also my review of the Kenny Barron and Dave Holland duo album here).

One warning ahead: this is as mainstream jazz as it gets. As you’ve probably seen from my blog before, I don’t mind that one bit.

You get jazz standards, but also some of their own compositions. She also plays the piano, and not just a bit, she swings like crazy (see some of the YouTube extracts below). Impulse was kind enough to give her outstanding musicians for this album,

The entire album and style sometimes recall the early Diana Krall, but you’ll quickly notice that she has already found her own voice, her own style, at the age of 27 nonetheless.

And I must admit, any singer doing Moon River get extra cookie points from me…. Reminds me every time of my first trip to NYC with my wife where we watched Breakfast at Tiffany’s on the hotel rooms VCR.

Keep your eyes and ears open for her!

My rating: 4 stars

Below two examples of her work, an earlier live recording during her time at Berklee, and the official clip of one of her tracks from the new album (not her strongest one by the way, but still fun to listen to).

You can download it here (Qobuz) or here (Highresaudio)

EDIT: I was notified by a reader that this album doesn’t seem to be available in the US yet. My chin dropped and I just couldn’t believe it. But it is true, Amazon US features this album only as “Import”. Seriously? Dear Execs at Universal, what are you thinking? Are these the 1980s? Is there one good rationale reason (probably beyond the weird parallel world of music licensing rights) why you wouldn’t make available an album by an Australian artist on a supposedly US label (impulse) in the US? I really don’t get it.

UPDATE: You’ll find a review of her live concert in Zurich in 2015 here.