MUSIC CLIP - OSCAR PETERSON, “MOONGLOW”
Welcome to Afterglow, [a show of vocal jazz and popular song from the Great American Songbook], I’m your host, Mark Chilla.
This week on the show, I’ll be doing my semi-annual check-in with what’s new from some notable vocal jazz and traditional pop singers. For the first half of 2023, we have a new, experimental all-French album from the marvelous jazz singer Cécile McLorin Salvant. We have a new record from one of my favorite duos, Rachael and Vilray. Plus, we’ll hear some interpretations of the American Songbook from a few artists outside of the jazz scene, like Rickie Lee Jones, Amos Lee, and Taj Mahal. Those recordings and many more on the way.
It’s a look at some Recent Vocal Jazz Releases for the first half of 2023, coming up next on Afterglow
MUSIC - LUCY YEGHIAZARYAN, "LONELY HOUSE"
Jazz singer Lucy Yeghiazaryan (yeg-ih-ZARE-ee-an) with pianist Michael Kanan (CANE-in) with the Kurt Weill and Langston Hughes song “Lonely House,” from her 2023 album of the same name. We’ll hear another track from this album later in the hour.
MUSIC CLIP - ERIC REED, "BLACK, BROWN, AND BLUE"
Mark Chilla here on Afterglow. On this show, I’m featuring some recent releases for vocal jazz fans out there. We’ll hear from some living and working artists recreating and reimagining the music from the American Songbook.
But first, I’d like to look at some artists who are keeping the classic jazz sound alive using their own original music. The artists I want to start with are the marvelous duo Rachael and Viray. In January they released their highly-anticipated (to me, at least) second album called I Love A Love Song, a follow-up to their 2019 self-titled album.
I’ve featured them several times on the show, and even interviewed Vilray during the early days of the pandemic. Rather than recording songs from the American Songbook, Rachael and Vilray perform Vilray’s original songs written in the style of classic 1930s tunes. His lyrics can be both clever and heartbreaking, like so many of the great lyricists of the early 20th century, and his music is incredibly stylistic for that era, with melodic figures and harmonies taken straight from the playbook of Gershwin, Rodgers, Berlin, and any of the greats.
I want to play two tracks from this record now. We’ll start with one of Vilray’s heartbreaking songs, a song about a love affair succumbing to the pressures of work obligations, featuring the phenomenal voice of Rachael Price. This is Rachael and Vilray with “Even In The Evenin’,” on Afterglow.
MUSIC - RACHAEL AND VILRAY, "EVEN IN THE EVENIN'"
MUSIC - RACHAEL AND VILRAY, "HATE IS THE BASIS (OF LOVE)"
The duo Rachael and Vilray, with two original songs from their latest album called I Love A Love Song. Just now, we heard “Hate Is The Basis (of Love)” and before that “Even In The Evenin’.”
As long as we’re talking about original songs, written in a jazz style, let’s turn to another one of my favorite artists (and someone who I feature frequently on the show) the electrifying Cécile McLorin Salvant. Salvant has won multiple Grammys for Best Vocal Jazz Album, but her latest record takes her further away from jazz. After winning a MacArthur Fellowship in 2020, Salvant has pushing her artistic pursuits in different directions, focusing on illustration, staging an original cantata, and creating her latest record titled Mélusine, an album inspired by the 14th-century myth about a half-woman/half-snake.
The album doesn’t literally tell the mythical story, but is rather an impressionist song cycle, combining 12th-century troubadour ballads, 17th-century baroque arias, and 21st-century original songs. Stylistically, Salvant is drawing from modern jazz, traditional classical, and experimental electronic music, with lyrics all in various dialects of French. It’s a fascinating album, perhaps not for everyone, but certainly for anyone willing to follow a great artist on a wild, eclectic journey.
Let’s hear one of her original songs from the album. Here is Cécile McLorin Salvant with “Doudou,” on Afterglow
MUSIC - CÉCILE MCLORIN SALVANT, "DOUDOU"
Cécile McLorin Salvant with her original song “Doudou.” That comes from her new, experimental, all-French album Mélusine, an eclectic imagination of a 14th-century French mythical figure.
Since we’re in the world of mythology, let’s turn now to the music of Lauren Henderson and her latest album titled Conjuring. Magic seems to be at the center of this latest record for this consistently impressive singer. Henderson is blending original songs with jazz standards all exploring this mystical theme, and like on many of her records, she filters these songs through the lens of her Afro-Latino roots.
Here she is with a jazz standard. This is Lauren Henderson with “That Old Black Magic,” on Afterglow.
MUSIC - LAUREN HENDERSON, "THAT OLD BLACK MAGIC"
Lauren Henderson, from her latest record called Conjuring, released in April of this year. That was the jazz standard “That Old Black Magic,” written by Harold Arlen and Johnny Mercer.
I want to turn now to a singer who just came on my radar, but someone who I have been immediately impressed with, Lucy Yeghiazaryan. Born in Armenia, Yeghiazaryan has quickly become a staple of the New York jazz scene, working with Harold Mabern, Emmet Cohen, Grant Stewart and more. Her intimate record Lonely House, released in February, uses traditional jazz and pop standards to capture the isolating, lonely feeling of those early days of the pandemic. Featuring only Michael Kanan at the piano, it’s an album that really showcases the beauty and subtlety in her voice.
This is Lucy Yeghiazaryan with the Jimmy Van Heusen and Sammy Cahn tune “Only The Lonely,” on Afterglow.
MUSIC - LUCY YEGHIAZARYAN, "ONLY THE LONELY"
Singer Lucy Yeghiazaryan and pianist Michael Kanan with Van Heusen and Cahn’s “Only The Lonely.” That comes from her 2023 album Lonely House.
MUSIC CLIP - ARTEMIS, "LIGHTS AWAY FROM HOME"
We’ll have more recent vocal jazz releases in just a bit. Stay with us. I’m Mark Chilla, and you’re listening to Afterglow
MUSIC CLIP - BUSELLI-WALLARB JAZZ ORCHESTRA, "III. HOAGLAND: NO. 1, STARDUST"
MUSIC CLIP - FRED HERSCH AND ESPERANZA SPALDING, "SOME OTHER TIME"
Welcome back to Afterglow, I’m Mark Chilla. We’ve been featuring some recent vocal jazz releases for the first half of 2023 this hour. In the background right now, you’re hearing pianist Fred Hersch from a new album called Alive At The Village Vanguard, which also features jazz singer and Grammy winner Esperanza Spalding.
This album was recorded live in 2018, where the duo performed jazz standards for several nights at the famous New York jazz venue. For Spalding, it’s a bit of a departure from her recent musical ventures, which have mostly been pushing the boundaries of jazz and pop into new directions with original music.
Here, she is breathing new life into old songs, showcasing her vocal talents, but notably not featuring her upright bass.
I’ll play one excerpt from this album now, and I’ll follow this up with a new track from another Grammy winner for Best New Artist, Samara Joy. First, here is pianist Fred Hirschand singer Esperanza Spalding live with the 1944 Jule Styne and Sammy Cahn song “Some Other Time,” on Afterglow.
MUSIC - FRED HERSCH AND ESPERANZA SPALDING, "SOME OTHER TIME"
MUSIC - SAMARA JOY, "I MISS YOU SO"
Singer Samara Joy with the song “I Miss You So,” a tune made famous by the King Cole Trio in 1947. That comes from a recent deluxe edition of her Grammy-award-winning album Linger Awhile. Before that, we heard from another Grammy-decorated jazz singer Esperanza Spalding. That was her and pianist Fred Hersch live with the Jule Styne and Sammy Cahn song “Some Other Time,” not to be confused with the Betty Comden, Adolph Green and Leonard Bernstein song also called “Some Other Time.” That comes from the duo’s recent live album called Alive At The Village Vanguard.
Jazz standards are not only the repertoire of jazz singers like Samara Joy and Esperanza Spalding. So far this year, artists from outside of the world of jazz have provided their own interpretations of the American songbook. I want to play two examples now, featuring two artists who don’t share much in common (besides an affinity for older tunes). The first is singer-songwriter Amos Lee, the second will be blues singer Taj Mahal.
Pop fans from the early 2000s may recognize Amos Lee—he had a few minor hits like the radio staple “Sweet Pea.” His music has largely been folk, but it samples heavily from jazz, blues, and traditional pop, much like the music of his friend Norah Jones.
His latest album called My Ideal, released late in 2022, is a tribute to jazz singer Chet Baker. Lee performs faithful interpretations of many songs Baker made famous, with a lovely, smoky tenor voice that’s not that far removed from Baker’s . Here is Amos Lee with another Jule Styne and Sammy Cahn tune, “I Fall In Love Too Easily,” on Afterglow.
MUSIC - AMOS LEE, "I FALL IN LOVE TOO EASILY"
MUSIC - TAJ MAHAL, "CALDONIA"
Blues legend Taj Mahal with the Louis Jordan jump blues classic “Caldonia.” That comes from his latest album called Savoy, a tribute to the jump blues and jazz standards that came out of the Savoy Ballroom in Harlem. Before that, singer-songwriter Amos Lee with “I Fall In Love Too Easily,” from his latest album called My Ideal, a tribute to songs made famous by singer and trumpeter Chet Baker.
The last recent jazz release I want to feature this hour comes from another artist who works on the fringes of jazz: singer-songwriter Rickie Lee Jones. Now, Jones is no stranger to jazz. You can hear the jazz and bebop influences on her early songs from the 1970s, like “Chuck E’s In Love” and “Easy Money.” And she even won a Grammy Award in 1990 for Best Jazz Vocal Performance for a recording she made of the standard “Makin’ Whoopee” along with Dr. John. Her latest album, called Pieces of Treasure, consists of ten songs from the Great American Songbook, and has her teaming up with producer Russ Titelman, the producer who helped her create those 1970s recordings that made her famous. Her voice has weathered over the last 40+ years, but she still has that cool, smoky style that makes these interpretations really sing.
To close off this show, here is Rickie Lee Jones with another Jule Styne song, “Just In Time,” on Afterglow.
MUSIC - RICKIE LEE JONES, "JUST IN TIME"
Rickie Lee Jones with Jule Styne, Betty Comden and Adolph Green’s “Just In Time.” That’s the opening track on her album Pieces of Treasure, which features the pop singer performing all jazz standards.
Thanks for tuning in to this recent releases edition of Afterglow.
MUSIC CLIP - LAKECIA BENJAMIN, "REBIRTH"
Afterglow is part of the educational mission of Indiana University and produced by WFIU Public Radio in beautiful Bloomington, Indiana. The executive producer is John Bailey.
Playlists for this and other Afterglow programs are available on our website. That’s at indianapublicmedia.org/afterglow.
I’m Mark Chilla, and join me next week for our mix of Vocal Jazz and popular song from the Great American Songbook, here on Afterglow