Words We Both Could Say
Shannon Butcher
Independent SB2008

You Go To My Head
Janelle Monique
ZaFeMusik ZAFE2007


Debut discs from several young singers have made their way over the WholeNote transom this summer. This month we have two examples, with more to come in future issues.

Shannon Butcher has come out of the gate strongly with “Words We Both Could Say”. The main attraction of this disc, besides Butcher’s very fine vocal work, is the refreshingly unusual (for a jazz record) source material. With nary a standard in sight, the ten tracks of jazzified pop tunes draws from such diverse sources as The Beatles, No Doubt, Blondie (Deborah Harry) and Jimmy Webb/Glen Campbell. The only tune that remotely resembles a standard is It Might As Well Be Spring, and that gets a bossa nova-ish treatment that spritzes it up nicely. Butcher’s appealingly light, clear, and at times breathy voice, works well on both up tempo and slower tunes. Although the disc is an eclectic mix there is a very definite style to the arrangements and performances from core players Ross MacIntyre on bass, Michael Shand on piano and Mark McLean on drums that make it a cohesive yet unique collection. The standout tracks for me are Tears for Fears’ Mad World, which has been getting a lot of airplay on JazzFM, and Wichita Lineman with its gentle syncopation, enriched harmonies and gorgeous guitar work by Rob Piltch, which is worth the purchase price alone. www.shannonbutcher.com

Janelle Monique’s offering “You Go to My Head” takes a completely different approach. Monique and producer Oliver Miguel draw heavily on standards - and some, like Misty, even tip over into the chestnut category - but the use of 80’s pop/funk/salsa instrumentation render them exhilaratingly difficult to recognize. There are also a handful of pop tunes, like Dust in the Wind and Sting’s Fragile, on which Max Senitt and Richardo Lewis on drums, Kibwe Thomas on keyboards and Oliver Miguel on sax, guitars, and programming turn in some beautiful playing. Add to that a few bossa nova standards and it all adds up to a quirky pop/funk/Latin/soul/swing stew. Monique’s singing style is rooted in R&B and Latin American soil, so, for me, the vocals on the songs that are not swing standards work much better. Some, like A Felicidade, are a perfect fit. www.moniquemusique.com

Cathy Riches
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