JWQ Showcase 2017

Saturday, August 27, 2016

USA: Kaylé Brecher-This Is Life(2016)


Kaylé Brecher | This Is Life
Album Notes


"It don't mean a thing if it don't mean a thing" - Kaylé Brecher

THIS IS LIFE
Intimacy is one of the most treasured elements of a rewarding musical performance. It’s a trait less likely to be achieved in the studio than in a live performance where the artist can directly interact with audience members, gauging their reactions and responding accordingly. A more evocative, enduring connection is formed when the musical relationship
between performer and patron is intimate.
This intimacy is something that vocalist Kaylé Brecher has honed over a lifetime of performance, building an uncommon gift for achieving intimacy within the recorded setting as effectively as onstage. Her selection of musical companions, among them longtime guitarist Frank Butrey and world renowned drummer Grant Calvin Weston, contributes to this warm, wonderful sense of closeness within Brecher’s artistic world.
This album presents various facets of Brecher’s creative personality, from improvisatory poems and original compositions to new twists on standard fare. Her skill at interpreting material and offering it up in new light is refreshing, as is her knack for making every syllable meaningful.
The various ensembles consist of both veterans and young faces. Bassist Ratzo Harris is well-known in jazz circles for his work alongside Kenny Werner, Mose Allison, Roseanna Vitro and Jane Ira Bloom. Says Brecher, “Ratzo is pure genius in what he comes up with to play - in his responsiveness when you are performing with him - as well as presenting remarkable soloistic prowess.” Powerhouse drummer Grant Calvin Weston's resume includes Ornette Coleman, The Lounge Lizards, James Blood Ulmer, John Medeski, Vernon Reid and too many others to mention here. Pianist David Dzubinski, Brecher’s husband, has partnered with her for many moons in both live and recorded settings. Young violinist Benjamin Sutin, studied with jazz legend John Blake as well as pianist Dzubinski before recently getting his degree from the Manhattan School of Music. Ben's modern approach stands out on “The Gift” and “Back to the Red Clay”. A pair of gifted harpists, 
the up-and-coming Brandee Younger (Brecher cites her “creative, sensitive, astonishing feel on a difficult instrument”) and Philly educator Gloria Galante, grace different tracks.
Brecher’s love of improvisational settings resulted in the spontaneous creation of the melody for “Not Alone” in the studio. Her interaction with Butrey, Younger and Harris in a drummerless setting is a textbook example of intimate listening. “Life is Just a Rhythm” is another poem that Brecher wrote, this time to improvise in duo alongside G. Calvin Weston’s
pinpoint drumming. Both tracks reveal that the singer is as gifted with word craft as she is with melody. Her penchant for rearranging classic American folk music appears here on “This Is Life”. Brecher came up as a young teen in Greenwich Village, singing blues and standards in clubs there during the nascence of the folk scene: “I like that these folk era songs are often blues based and thus extremely malleable… I am usually more compelled by deep songs about life experiences, or philosophical or sociological concepts than I am by love songs. Writers like Fred Neil, Phil Ochs, etc. were often compellingly brave and deep in their lyrics.” Equally brave is Brecher’s unexpectedly funky take on Fred Neil’s “Wild Child”, a fun modernization of a style that is unfairly viewed as old hat in contemporary circles. Trumpeter Matt Cappy’s résumé includes The Roots and work with Kirk Franklin, Wyclef Jean, and Earth, Wind & Fire.
Brecher also loves re-envisioning classic jazz tunes, as she does here with her lyrics for Freddie Hubbard’s “Red Clay” and Herbie Hancock’s “Dolphin Dance”, and a bright, scat-filled arrangement of Egberto Gismonti's “Moon Dreams” (aka O Sonho). On the latter, again, the sparse string borne instrumentation accentuates the freshness of her vocal approach.
The session closes with “The Gift”, a sprightly Brecher original that celebrates the beauty and complexity of life, summing up the album’s core theme. For Brecher does consider life to be a most precious gift.

--Todd Jenkins, jazz historian, critic, and author of ‘Free Jazz and Free Improvisation: An Encyclopedia’ and ‘I Know What I Know: The Music of Charles Mingus’

Personnel:
Kaylé Brecher: all vocals // Ratzo Harris: bass (tracks 1,2,3,4,5,7,8 and 9) //
Frank Butrey: guitar (tracks 1,2,3,4,5 and 9) // Grant Calvin Weston: drums (tracks 3,5,6 and 9) //
Brandee A Younger: harp (tracks 1 and 7) // Gloria Galante: harp (tracks 2 and 4) //
Benjamin Sutin: violin (tracks 5 and 9) // David Dzubinski: piano (tracks 5 and 9) //Matt Cappy: trumpet (track 3)