CD Review by radio host Dan Karcher
WBGO 88.3 FM ~ Newark

Dan Karcher - June 18, 1999

Jazz singing is one of the most difficult areas in which to achieve even a modicum of success. One only has to note the relatively small number of truly great jazz singers who have maintained successful careers. One of the great obstacles is the "show-biz" aspects of the profession. People expect a sax player or trumpet player to be jazzy.

A singer, however, is expected to entertain the audience with musical pictures and patter, usually popular and dreadful, or nostalgic and pompous. This is usually at variance with most jazz peoples' personalities. This misconception by most of the musical public has lessened the careers of many talented singers, as well as instrumentalists, who are not considered entertaining or "commercial" enough to survive in the music marketplace.
Survival is a key word in any evaluation of an artist.

Hang in and sing the truth and eventually people will listen. The "truth," like her sister, "honesty," is an absolute.

One of the many virtues that makes this debut recording exceptional is Tracy Todd's unique ability to create a dialogue from within a song drawing one's ear to listen and participate, hence, from the recording's start, one's attention is arrested and induced into the very center of melody, lyric, and instrumentation.

All too often a collection of ballads find their way to be heard only as ambient or "background" music for dinner or an evening by a fire, which can at times be considered anonymously and musically offensive. It is far easier to swing out uptempo as opposed to the art of resistance and carefully chosen thought. More than often it is what the musician is not doing that he or she are striving for. And in jazz its sole purpose is the art of the search.

In regards to Todd, there is an immediate presence from within the ballad...from the a cappella introduction into Deep Song to the subtle tenor of Bob Sheppard. Often when reviewing a recording, I naturally seek out and find myself attracted to a few particular songs whereas on this one, all eight commanded my attention.

The support given by the sextet deserves a word of praise. To have such a noteworthy collection of musicians provide their extraordinary talent on a singer's debut recording is a feat in itself giving direct indication that this vocalist has something to say. Jeff Beal's trumpet on Moon and Sand is a dialogue within a dialogue paternally looking out over the sweet and tame voice of this Alec Wilder classic. One has to listen to Alan Pasqua's introduction in You Must Believe in Spring to understand the depth this ensemble has discovered on this recording.Within the first measure Todd falls into the song as poignantly as an oboe into a string adagio then releasing bassist John Patitucci, drummer Peter Erskine and Pasqua to confirm the melody in outstanding trio form enhancing the tune to a profound level.

Of all the elements in broadcasting jazz, performing live, or recording in a studio, one very important but often over-looked point is the art of the segue. I mention this in that this reviewer's favorite tune is ironically saved for last (a habit of mine for centuries) leaving us all in enriched contentment. As Pasqua opens He's Gone Away with a curious stroke to the piano keys, Starr Parodi fills the tune with a very delicate synthesizer allowing Todd to lift the song directly into one's heart, contradicting the very lyric. When you hear Todd's debut recording, you'll soon find yourself queing up to "tie her shoe" and "glove her hand," never to go away. That's impact, that's Tracy Todd.

Survival is a key word in any evaluation of an artist.

Hang in and sing the truth and eventually people will listen. "The "truth," like her sister, "honesty," is an absolute.

--Dan Karcher
Radio Host
WBGO 88.3 FM

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