'Jazz Divas' collection offers great vocal talents


POSTED: Friday, January 15, 2010

Contemporary female jazz vocalists are showcased in this first installment of National Public Radio's “;Discover Songs”; series, and it's an adept mix across the board, from the well known to the relatively obscure ... and I don't think a single one of them has the attitudes of a so-called “;diva,”; although it makes the CD more marketable to put it in the subtitle.

Of special local interest, the collection includes selections from Diana Krall and Karrin Allyson, popular singers who visit here on a regular basis. Krall is represented with her cover of Tom Waits' “;Temptation,”; from her change-of-pace album “;The Girl in the Other Room.”; Allyson (who, coincidentally, appears here in concert this weekend) pays tribute to the late, great Blossom Dearie with the delicate and waltzlike “;Bye Bye Country Boy,”; from 2002's “;In Blue”; album, which also features a nice solo exchange between Mulgrew Miller on Fender Rhodes and acoustic bassist Peter Washington.





        Various Artists

(Shout! Factory)




If the Honolulu Symphony Pops season had not been canceled, we would've been familiar with the vocal stylings of Melody Gardot, who was originally scheduled to perform here with Matt Catingub and the orchestra last week. In the meantime, do yourself a favor and either pick up or download her two albums, “;Worrisome Heart”; and “;My One and Only Thrill.”; The sultry blues of the title track of the former is here in this collection and is a good example of the immense talent of this quickly rising star.

The same can be said for Esperanza Spalding, a jazz vocalist who is also a bassist. On the infectious “;I Adore You,”; taken from her well-received debut, she scats and vocalizes over a solid Brazilian groove. A true Brazilian by birth, the dynamic Eliane Elias does a great re-imagining of Bob Marley's “;Jammin',”; from her 2006 “;Inside the City”; album, a spry acoustic-based cover that combines classic jazz with samba and house dance rhythms.

With the exception of Jane Monheit's dramatic reading of a lushly orchestrated but not very jazzy version of “;Over the Rainbow,”; everyone else deserves to be here. We get tastes of other fine vocalists like Patricia Barber and Tierney Sutton, plus the strong R&B/blues/soul foursome of Ledisi, Lizz Wright, Rene Marie and Catherine Russell.

Krall, Gardot and Madeleine Peyroux—whose “;Instead”; from her latest album, “;Bare Bones,”; is a highlight in this collection—will be touring together next month in Australia and New Zealand. Any local promoters willing to book any of them to make a concert stopover here? An eager audience would be ready to greet them, especially after listening to this collection.

The compilation is currently available online at National Public Radio ( and Daedalus Books Online ( It will be in stores Jan. 26; proceeds from CD sales will support NPR.