The Chanteuse Thing

by Josef Woodard

“REAL JAZZ” SINGERS’ CLUB: Last week, the calmly remarkable jazz
vocalist Tierney Sutton strolled onstage at SOhO, appearing with
the hot, Los Angeles-based Chris Walden Big Band. It was as if she
were just a girl singer who drove up for the gig, instead of what
she is: one of the very finest living jazz singers — of the “real
jazz” singer category. That odd “real” qualifier attests to
stylistic fuzziness in the current jazz singer trade, with
vocalists freely taking side trips.

Sometimes, conservatism can be a beautiful thing, considering,
say, Sutton’s controlled mastery of tone, phrasing, and sharp
scatting. Lately, more Santa Barbarans are catching Sutton fever,
flocking to her Lobero concerts and SOhO cameos with growing

Of course, other fine singers have their heads wisely buried in
the Great American Songbook and maintain solid jazz cred, but they
don’t always find their way to record deals or to credit due. One
worth seeking out is Roberta Gambarini, the Italian-born and bred
musician who has lived in N.Y.C. since 1998 and finally has an
album out to show off her considerable talents, Easy to Love (KRM).
From the first pearly tones of the title track to the serpentine
elegance of “Monk’s Prayer/Looking Back,” it’s clear that Gambarini
has done her homework and her heartwork. She scats up a
disciplined, Ella-esque storm on “On the Sunny Side of the Street”
and on “Centerpiece;” she gets artfully balladic on “Guess I’ll
Hang My Tears Out to Dry,” while swapping riffs with James Moody.
Watch and listen for Gambarini: If musical justice prevails, she’ll
soon be haunting public spaces near you (maybe even a SOhO

HIS SONG SHIP: No, Anne Kerry Ford does not include that old
chestnut “Mack the Knife” on her lustrous new Kurt Weill project,
Weill (Illyria Records). But Roger Kellaway, her
arranger/keyboardist (and fellow Ojai resident), was recently
earlobe-deep in the song as the music director for Kevin Spacey’s
Bobby Darrin tribute (Kellaway also worked with Darrin back in the

Weill is a glorious and fascinating new celebration of one of
the greatest 20th-century songwriters, whose songs have been
eagerly adapted by the jazz musicians who relish Weill’s
distinctive mix of sophistication, harmonic innovation, and
directness of feeling. But Ford — unlike her husband, Robben Ford,
who plays on the record — comes from the cabaret world rather than
jazz, per se, and her delivery is lucidly theatrical. She gives us
a brief “My Ship,” and polishes up less obvious jewels from the
library, including “Tango Ballad,” “Solomon Song,” “Progress,”
“Surabaya Johnny” (with its quote from “Mack the Knife”), and the
dreamily lyrical “Lost in the Stars” to close.

It doesn’t hurt that Ford is backed by the fab WDR Big Band from
Cologne, Germany, whose colorful foundation blends jazz, art song,
and pre-existential pop. Weill is a dazzling addition to the Weill

FRINGE MUSIC ALERT, GOING SOUTH: Fringe music lovers heading
south, or looking for excuses to do so, take note. Friday night at
the Wiltern brings the eagerly awaited Zappa Plays Zappa concert,
with Dweezil leading a hot young band and vet Napoleon Murphy Brock
through his late father’s delicious musical mazes, with guests
including Steve Vai and Terry Bozzio. Saturday at the architectural
oasis of West Hollywood’s Schindler House, the adventurous “sound.”
series kicks off with Japanese avant-guitarist Tetuzi Akiyama, the
“boogie knight” (

TO-DOINGS: The news is out, all over the tri-counties: Pozo
Saloon, outside of Santa Margarita, north of San Luis Obispo, is
one of the hipper live musical spots around. String Cheese
Incident, stars of the jamband omniverse, will kick off its summer
tour at Pozo, on a double bill with our man Bob Weir and his
non-Dead band Ratdog. SCI sounds real good in the great outdoors,
as proven by its Bowl show a few years ago. Bring an appetite for
extended jams and blurred genres. (Got e? Email


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