Sunday, March 22, 2015

Joanne Tatham - "Out of My Dreams"

© -  Steven A. Cerra, copyright protected; all rights reserved.

"Tatham has the chops to go all the way"
— Chris Spector- Midwest Record

"A colorful voice with a great sense of tempo and time...
what a pleasure it is to discover Joanne Tatham!"   
— Rex Reed

"This is a carefully conceived collection by a superb vocalist"
—Jersey Jazz Journal

"It was a treat to go on this musical ride with Joanne Tatham - her vocal approach to these songs kept things fresh and real, and she colored the lyrics of these songs with a sensitivity and passion that made it all come alive."   
— Tamir Hendelman

"...An exceptionally beautiful voice. It's reminiscent of the pop balladeers of the late '50's and early '60's, but with a fine-drawn intensity and shimmering vibrato that are all her own."
- Terry Teachout

It’s always a pleasure to get turned on to a vocalist whose style of singing engages me in a song’s lyrics.

I mean I can hum or whistle or tap out the melody of many songs on a piano or a set of vibes, but I can’t sing. I can read lyrics, even speak them somewhat poetically if need be, but I can’t sing them.

I can hear the humor in lyrics by Dave Frishberg and Bob Dorough, or feel the poignancy in the lyrics to sad songs like Detour Ahead or In A Lonely Place, or marvel at the lyrics that are applied to tunes that I know primarily as instrumentals such as Herbie Hancock’s Tell Me a Bedtime Story or McCoy Tyner’s You Taught My Heart to Sing; but I can’t sing nary a one of ‘em.

Over the years I’ve worked in big band, show bands, and small groups that backed singers; in many cases because they were good paying gigs but not because I looked forward to what these singers had to offer. Often they thought they could sing, but the reality was that few of them could.

Brief stints backing Anita O’Day, Blossom Dearie, Matt Dennis, Bobby Troup and Peggy Lee taught me the difference between affectation as a singer and talent as a vocalist, the latter usually combined with a high degree of musicianship.

Not surprisingly then, over the years, I have become very particular about my choice of vocal Jazz artists.  The current era of self-produced CD’s has made me even more selective as it seems that anyone who thinks they can carry a tune makes a recording. They arrived at the offices of the editorial staff of JazzProfiles by the fistful. After a brief listening, most of them find their way into a giveaway bag for local charitable organizations.

But every so often, someone special comes in the door and reminds me of why, when it is done well, the human voice can be the most expressive of Jazz instruments.

Such was the case recently with the arrival of Joanne Tatham’s new CD - Out of My Dreams [Cafe Pacific Records CPCD 4515].

Joanne’s voice and singing style just stopped me in my tracks. What began as a cursory listening to another “chick singa” CD turned into a forty-five [45] reverie as I found myself being seduced by the magic of Joanne Tatum’s unique approach to vocal Jazz.

One of the tunes she sings is You’re Sensational and Joanne is - sensational. Her voice is particularly suited to the middle and lower registers and when she dwells there what she sings becomes comfortable on the ears and allows the meaning of a song’s lyric to come through clearly. She doesn’t “act” the music, she sings it in a suggestive manner. The story being told by the lyrics clearly rings through and she sings the words with a self-assurance that makes the listener feel that hers is the definitive interpretation of the song.

Joanne’s force of personality comes through each of the eleven [11] tracks on Out of My Dreams and announces her as someone to be reckoned with and not just someone who is playing at singing.

Throughout she is aided and abetted by wonderful arrangements as penned by Eli Brueggeman, Tamir Hendelman, Todd Hunter, Marcel Camargo [with whom Joanne co-arranged You’re Sensational] and Jamieson Trotter. Tamir on piano along with bassist John Clayton and drummer Peter Erskine form the rhythm section for some of the tracks with pianist Jamieson Trotter, bassist Lyman Medeiros and drummer Mike Shapiro appearing on the others. Bob Sheppard plays tenor sax on two tracks and guitarist Marcel Camargo plays on three tracks.

Holly Cooper and her fine team at Mouthpiece Music Publicity and Marketing sent along the following press release which will provide you with more details about Joanne and her new recording.

Suffice to say, Joanne Tatham’s vocal Jazz CD is a keeper.

Joanne has her own website at and the new CD is available there and at iTunes, Amazon and CDBaby.

© -  Holly Cooper/Mouthpiece Music, copyright protected; all rights reserved.

“Joanne Tatham is the quintessential big-city girl - wry, no-nonsense, and smart, with a heart beating behind every word she sings. Songs flow out of her in a voice of liquid clarity, buoyed by such secure technique that she can forget all about it and focus on the stories at hand.

Joanne has an interesting one of her own. In 1993, she left behind a budding career as a New York musical-comedy performer in order to marry a TV writer and move to L.A. In a few years they started a family. "This lifestyle change became an artistic change," she says, "and it burst out into what I feel is my essence."

Remembering the swinging pop masters she had grown up loving at her family home in New Jersey - Frank Sinatra, Peggy Lee, Sammy Davis, Jr. - Joanne began to feel her way as a solo singer in jazz clubs and cabarets.

Her self-reinvention worked. The Washington Post praised her "exceptionally beautiful voice"; Rex Reed, a true connoisseur of jazz singers, enthused about her "great sense of tempo and time," adding: "What a pleasure it is to discover Joanne Tatham!"

This album is her third. The producer is Mark Winkler, a gifted jazz singer and songwriter from L.A.; the subject, of course, is love. But a torch singer she's not; though Joanne knows all about disappointment, she doesn't live in it. Her singing gives the reassuring sense that, whatever the pain, a happy ending is in store. She certainly takes risks. On this CD she tackles Broadway, bossa nova, post-bop modern jazz, Dave Frishberg, and Harry Nilsson. The arrangements, written and played by top-drawer L.A. musicians, challenge her musically without ever outshining the words.

"You Taught My Heart To Sing," she says, "sort of straddles my world." It was first recorded in 1985 by its composer, McCoy Tyner, a titan of modern jazz piano; his lush music inspired lyricist Sammy Cahn to write of birds in flight and love that lasts forever. From the sax-and-voice intro to the high-flying ending, Joanne is in relaxed command. She keeps impressive company. Tamir Hendelman, arranger and pianist on this and other tracks, is a trio leader, concert pianist, and a member of the Clayton-Hamilton Jazz Orchestra - whose co-founder, bassist John Clayton, joins him on this CD. Saxophonist Bob Sheppard has played with Chick Corea and Steely Dan; drummer Peter Erskine is a two-time Grammy-winning graduate of Weather Report.

Joanne's wistful but dry-eyed approach to ballads is clear on "Without Him (Without Her)", Harry Nilsson's 1967 hit. A Cuban-tinged piano solo by arranger Jamieson Trotter and Michael Shapiro's Afro-Brazilian-style percussion keep the spirit high.

"Devil May Care," the title tune of Bob Dorough's 1956 debut album, has become an anthem for the no-strings jazz life. Arranger Eli Brueggemann's tricky modulations and meter changes would never fly at Saturday Night Live, where he works as musical director; but they don't phase Joanne, who navigates them with the nonchalance the song requires.

Herbie Hancock wrote "Tell Me a Bedtime Story" in the late '60s as instrumental music for the Fat Albert TV show. Aversion by George Shearing caught Joanne's ear. "The way he phrased it, I heard a story," she said. At her behest, a producer friend, Clifford Bell, asked Hancock if there was a lyric. "Word came back: why doesn't she write some? So I did."

The film-noir-era jazz ballad "Detour Ahead" is the confession of a woman who has narrowly steered clear of a nasty crash. Joanne's performance suggests safety at the end of the road; John Clayton bows and plucks as expressively as if he, too, were singing. They dip into the same crepuscular mood with "In a Lonely Place," written by Mark Winkler and his singer-songwriter colleague, Marilyn Harris. A different kind of pain-that of getting stuck on the freeway - inspired "Too Long in L.A.," Dave Frishberg's comic harumph to his old hometown. The trio's deadpan super-cool is a wink that Frishberg would appreciate.

Other tracks have their own novel touches. On Jon Lucien's "You're Sensational," Sao Paulo-born Marcel Camargo plays cavaquinho, the percussive guitar used in samba and choro. Jobim's "Vivo Sonhando (Dreamer)" boasts a pretty choral intro sung by Joanne, Camargo, and Michael Shapiro. In his solo on "Cool" (from West Side Story), Tamir Hendelman takes the song's sinister vibe and fleshes it out with edgy, stabbing chords; Joanne is the siren with a smile of ice.

It melts in the title song. In Oklahoma!, farm girl Laurey downs a magic potion and sings "Out of My Dreams," a fairy-tale vision of ideal love. Arranger Todd Hunter turns it into a floating jazz waltz; Joanne sings it with her sweetest optimism. To Oscar Hammerstein's words she added a vocalese lyric, set to a melodic line by Hunter and inspired by the show's bucolic theme.

Haystacks and barn dances are storybook images for Joanne, who now divides her time between New York and L.A. But her ability to roam all over the musical map, while sounding at home wherever she goes, is one of the things that make Out of My Dreams such a convincing journey.” — James Gavin, New York, 2014

[Mr. Gavin is the author of Is That All There Is?: The Strange Life of Peggy Lee, as well as biographies of Chet Baker and Lena Horne.]

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