Provizer's Jazz Notes
Provizer's Jazz Notes, 11-22-12
For more than a decade now, I’ve found myself listening to vocalists with singer Eva Cassidy always on my mind. In November 1996, Cassidy died of melanoma at the age of 33. The singer, who lived in the Maryland suburbs outside of Washington, DC, was a vocalist with a strong local following around Washington, but one without much national exposure. In 1992, she recorded a duet album with DC’s “Godfather of Go-Go” Chuck Brown; and two years later, she appeared on a couple of tracks on the Blue Note disc Goodbye Manhattan from Pieces of a Dream and toured with the group out of Philadelphia.
Cassidy was not a jazz singer per se, but her jazz sensibility (in terms of her individualism) was apparent. In fact, the Bruce Lundvall, the noted head of Blue Note, referred to her as “the most extraordinary and singular voice I have heard in a very, very long time.” I couldn’t agree more.
That individualism came not from her producing original songs. Rather it was rooted in her ability to make tunes recorded by other (Sting, Cyndi Lauper, Paul Simon, Curtis Mayfield, Judy Garland, John Lennon, Bill Withers, Christine McVie) entirely her own. Her covers were anything but that – they reveal not what others had done, but her own soul.
With more than a touch of irony, this local artist emerged as a global star after her death when her music caught on first in England and then back in the states. Over the years since her passing, singer/guitarist Cassidy has sold more than 10 million records and her Songbird compilation turned platinum in the USA.
Earlier this month, her label, Blix Street Records, has released a new compilation of 20 songs culled from eight of her discs and launched by a previously unreleased, knockout version of “You Take My Breath Away.” The new disc is titled The Best of Eva Cassidy and, if you haven’t heard of this singer, don’t miss this introduction to her work that mines slow-to-medium tempo tunes in stunning style. During her all-to-brief life, Cassidy’s desire to sing “beyond category” caused her problems. But she was right to do exactly what she did. Her voice will take your breath away.
Getting back to the week in live music, following the Thanksgiving celebration, bassist Ken Walker’s sextet is back at Dazzle, 930 Lincoln, for its monthly visit on Friday. Walker is a fine bassist and his sextet can catch fire. The music is at 7 and 9 p.m. ($12/$8 students for the 9 p.m. set, 303-839-5100).
Then, with Thanksgiving in the rear-view mirror, the holiday season has arrived in full force. On Saturday at Dazzle, pianist Rob Mullins joins singer Hazel Miller and bassist Walker for a “Holiday Show” at 7 and 9 p.m. ($20). Mullins, originally from the Centennial State, is a potent pianist with more than two-dozen albums to his credit. When you combine his enthusiastic playing with Miller’s rousing voice, it highlights the joyful part of the holidays. The music is at 7 and 9 p.m. ($20).
On Sunday, the sounds continue with saxophonist Jim Stranahan’s septet at Dazzle at 7 p.m. ($15). The septet has players like pianist Eric Gunnison and drummer Mike Marlier. The saxophonist’s son, Colin, of course, has been making his own waves on the national scene.
World music is on tap at Dazzle on Monday with the Marrakech Express trio at 7 p.m. ($10), followed by combos from MSU Denver (a.k.a. Metro State) under the direction of trumpeter Ron Miles on Tuesday at 7 p.m. (no cover). Miles has a new, collaborative trio recording out on the Enja label with guitarist Bill Frisell and drummer Brian Blade. That disc, Quiver, is a five-star effort, some of which was recorded at Dazzle.
As a final reminder of the holiday season, Irving Berlin’s White Christmas: The Musical is now at the Buell Theater in the Denver Performing Arts Complex through December 24 (303-893-4100). Along with “White Christmas,” the musical has Berlin tunes such as “Blue Skies,” “How Deep Is the Ocean,” and “I’ve Got My Love to Keep Me Warm.” Berlin is one of the leading contributors to the great American songbook that, in turn, is a major part of the jazz tradition.