Thursday, January 4, 2018

Laurie Dapice - A New Face in Vocal Jazz

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

"A Buried Treasure"
- Rodney Yearby Sr; Journalist Utica Phoenix News.

"A Beautiful Voice; One of the Best in the World"
- Todd Barkan; Keystone Korner Jazz Impresario.

"One of the Best Projects that has come in here; your Originals hold their own up against these old classics; A Beautiful Album"
- Alan Silverman; Grammy Award winning Mastering Engineer

At the outset, please let me qualify the word “new” in the title of this piece to mean new to my ears and not necessarily new to the music

Upon encountering it for the first time in recent weeks, what I enjoy most about Laurie’s singing is that the Jazz inflection associated with it was not forced or overstated.

Let’s face it, while we appreciate the huge footprint that Ella Fitzgerald, Sarah Vaughan, Carmen McRae, Peggy Lee and a host of other sterling vocalists who populated the Jazz scene for most of the second half of the 20th century, their respective talents are beyond imitation.

While all vocalists who sing in the Jazz idiom today can reflect their influence, it is markedly better for them to find their own way or style if you will and that’s exactly what Laurie has done in her debut recording.

By way of background, Laurie Dapice: Parting The Veil was self produced in 2014 and you can purchase it as a download or audio CD from CDBaby.

In her notes to the recording Laurie gets her debts paid in quick order by acknowledging the inspiration she has received from: “Abbey Lincoln, you are like the breath of life; necessary. Your light was luminous, your music is instrumental and our time together changed my life. I most certainly applaud your courage. Billie Holiday, Abbey Lincoln, Shirley Horn, Sarah Vaughan, Nina Simone, Nancy Wilson, Anita O'Day and Ella Fitzgerald! You made the dream very real.”

Not bad company, eh? If you agree with the premise that Jazz is mostly learned and not taught, then you have to admire Laurie’s excellent choice of vocal models from which to learn how to realize own her dream.

What helped me to set my ears concerning Laurie’s vocal Jazz style is her choice of three songs from the Great American Songbook, one Negro Spiritual - Sometimes I Feel Like A Motherless Child and one from the book of Jazz Standards - Gigi Gryce’s Social Call.

These familiar tunes served as a point of departure to help me better appreciate Laurie’s work on Abbey Lincoln’s more obscure Just for Me and on her two, originals.

That long-standing argument on the subject of what (and who) is or is not a jazz singer has always struck me as particularly pointless. The fact is that the singer's art is a separate one, halfway between the musician's and the actor's. One could say that it partakes of both — but one would be wrong. For the contrary is actually the case: both acting and the playing of musical instrumental music derive from singing.

The function of the singer is, and always has been, to tell stories in a musical context. Whether or not a particular singer understands the nature of his function and can fulfill it well is another matter, but the function is nevertheless there - to bring out the dramatic poignancy of the situation expressed in the lyrics, and to do it in a musical way.

Now, a singer may choose to emphasize the dramatic aspect of his task (as Sinatra does), or the musical aspect of it (as Sarah Vaughan usually does), but he or she slights the other aspect at his own peril.

Laurie Dapice, it seems to me, has ‘roots’ — not just in the short-term way in which jazz buffs use that term, but in the longer run of history. That is to say, she is, whether consciously or otherwise, in touch with the tradition of musical storytelling. If it happens that she stresses the musical side of the art, it is her prerogative to do so. But she doesn't ever slight the dramatic.

And this is what makes Laurie’s debut recording so wonderful; for one so young, she gets it: dramatic musical storytelling comes through her “parting of the veil” and announces her arrival as a significant new face on today’s Vocal Jazz Scene.

Sheila Anderson, author and on-air host, WBGO, 88.3 FM [New York] offers more observations about Laurie’s abilities and the music on

“There are a number of reasons why this project is outstanding. From her noteworthy song selections, to her impressive arrangements (she wrote them all), to her clear tone and sublime pitch, Laurie Dapice's debut release hits all the right notes. A vocalist's strengths are singing clear and precise melodies, understanding the lyrics and how to communicate them. Listen to the moving intro featuring Art Hirahara on "Midnight Sun" before bringing in the rest of the rhythm section, where Laurie takes her time and comfortably nails the notes, illuminating the beauty of the song.

Laurie has been careful to select compositions that have a deep meaning for her while paying homage to vocal icons, like Sarah Vaughan, Nina Simone and Abbey Lincoln. Her carefully constructed arrangements of "Just for Me," "Throw it Away" and "Feeling Good" avoid imitation of their versions while staying true to their forms. Notably, her rendition of "Social Call" as a slow/mid-tempo blues, with Elias Bailey laying down a grooving, soulful bass line, may surprise many. In addition to her arrangements, Laurie has included two originals, "Goodbye Summer" and "Winter Waltz", bringing to mind contemporary singer/songwriters such as Carmen Lundy, Rene Marie and Esperanza Spaulding.

With the assistance of well chosen, notable musicians who skillfully execute her vision, this recording evokes a unique vibe. Akua Dixon, takes a swinging solo on "You'd Be So Nice To Come Home To" and a beautiful arco opening on "Feeling Good". The versatile, multi-reedist, Paul Lieberman adds his unique sound, be it Latin flavor, ballad, blues or up-tempo. On two selections Rufus Reid lends his warm delicate and seasoned sound. Aaron Graves' poignant solo, along with Yoron Israel's accented drumming, captivate the haunting melody of the final selection "Motherless Child". From the first note to the last, Parting the Veil is a work that reveals the signs of true artistry.” - SHEILA ANDERSON, AUTHOR, ON-AIR-HOST, WBGO, 88.3FM

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