Some Female Vocalists You May Have Missed

August 17, 2023

A number of female vocal albums have failed to make the OTHER VIEWS column in recent issues of Jersey Jazz Magazine, due to space limitations. Some of them are too good to miss, so here are reviews of 17 such albums worthy of recognition.

Throughout the nation, there are many singers who have a rabid local following, but do not get the kind of national recognition that they deserve.  Among the best of these is Minneapolis-based Maud Hixson.  She is not only a superb vocalist but is a singer who has exquisite taste when it comes to song selection, often unearthing first-rate gems that are too often overlooked.  Her latest release, Permanent Moonlight: Songs of Sir Richard Rodney Bennett (self-produced), pays tribute to a musical genius, singer/pianist/composer of classical music, soundtracks and popular songs, with whom she had one opportunity to perform as a duo with himas her accompanist.  It turned out to be Bennett’s last public performance as he soon succumbed to a sudden illness.  Hixon has dug deeply into his catalog of pop material and selected an eclectic and fascinating program of 10 selections.  The ones that might be familiar to some listeners are “Early to Bed, written with Franklin Underwood and “I’ll Always Leave the Door a Little Open,” with his co-writers being Underwood and Johnny Mandel.  Hixson is a singer who does justice to every lyric that she performs and does so with warmth and a voice that is welcoming from her first notes to her last.  (

The proliferation of young jazz musicians in New York City who are dedicated to keeping alive jazz from the ‘20s, ‘30s and ‘40s has resulted in much good music.  Scott Asen’s Turtle Bay Records has become a prime mover in recording music from this exciting New York City jazz scene.  The release of Everybody Loves a Lover (Turtle Bay – 234-003) featuring the vocals of Hannah Gill is another gem in the Turtle Bay catalog.  Gill has surrounded herself with some of the musicians who share her penchant for tunes from the eras mentioned above.  The band includes Danny Jonokuchi on trumpet, who also provided the arrangements, Ryan Weisheit on reeds, Sam Chess on trombone, Greg Ruggerio on guitar, Gordon Webster on piano, Tal Ronen on bass, and Ben Zweig on drums.  The 10-song program is an interesting one that avoids revisiting a lot of the more familiar tunes that are usually found on albums like this one.  The selections are “Moonlight Savings Time,” “You Were Only Fooling,” “I Fell in Love with a Dream,” “You’re Getting to Be a Habit with Me,” “Everybody Loves a Lover,” “Lullaby of the Leaves,” “What Can I Say After I Say I’m Sorry,” “This Will Make You Laugh,” “Autumn Leaves”, and “It’s a Sin to Tell a Lie.”  Gill is a clear-voiced, straight-ahead singer with a consistent jazz sensitivity and an innate swing to her vocalizing.  (

Vocalist Lucy Wijnands was one of the featured artists at the NJJS 50th Anniversary concert in October, 2022. She was also Jersey Jazz’s Rising Star in June 2021.  Something Awaits (self-produced) is her debut recording as a leader.  She presents a six-song program mixing three standards, “Goin’ Out of My Head,” “Time Was” and “You’ll Never Walk Alone” with three original tunes with lyrics by Wijnands, “Always and Forever,” music by her father, Bram Wijnands, and two compositions by bassist Omer Avital, “Start All Over Again” and “(Way Down in) Bedstuy.”  Wijnands is one of several young singers who has emerged from the jazz program at SUNY-Purchase.  She has a warm vocal style infused with a natural jazz feeling.  Her lyrics are well-conceived and much in the tradition of songs from the Great American Songbook.  This recording confirms the winning impression that she created as the featured vocalist on John di Martino’s recent Call Me Irresponsible album.  (

Love’s Got Me in a Lazy Mood (Origin – 22218) is the third album from vocalist Darden Purcell.  Like the prior two releases, Purcell sings a selection of standards, this time adding an original, “Chatterbox,” written with her guitarist/husband Shawn Purcell.  The other selections include “Willow Weep for Me,” “Love’s Got Me in a Lazy Mood,” “Come Back to Me,” “It’s a Most Unusual Day,” “I Concentrate on You,” “A Cottage for Sale,” “Estrada Branca (This Happy Madness),” “Estate,” “Taking a Chance on Love” and “You’ve Changed.”  Supporting Purcell are Joe Locke on vibes, Shawn Purcell on guitar, Todd Simon on piano, Jeff Reed on bass, and Todd Harrison on drums.  Purcell gives each lyric the attention that it deserves and does so with a jazzy approach.  She has a vocal instrument that is easy on the ears, making this one pleasant listening experience.  (

There is something about listening to a fine and swinging singer like Angela DeNiro backed by an outstanding large ensemble like the Ron Aprea Big Band that lifts the listener almost off the chair with enthusiasm.  Such is the case with Swingin’ with Legends 2 (Early Autumn – 1717), a long overdue follow-up to the 1997 gem, the initial Swingin’ with Legends.  Homebound by the Covid outbreak, Aprea used his isolation to pen about 40 big band charts, many written for his singer/wife DeNiro.  Once it was possible to get into the studio, Aprea gathered together a roster of outstanding NYC area musicians for his 16-piece aggregation.  Also on hand were special guests, clarinetist Ken Peplowski and trumpeter Randy Brecker, for one track each and Lew Tabackin on tenor sax and flute for two tracks.  There are 14 selections with songs such as “You’d Be So Easy to Love,” “A House Is Not a Home,” “Two for the Road,” ‘Come in From the Rain,” “On Green Dolphin Street” and “My One and Only Love.”  Aprea wrote an original tune dedicated to Phil Woods, “For Phil” and DeNiro delivers the hip lyrics with aplomb. For the closer, they turned to a relatively obscure tune most associated with Bobby Darin, “The Curtain Falls.”  Whether nicely caressing a ballad or swinging full out on the up-tempo charts, DeNiro is right on target with her approach to each selection.  (

Montreal-based vocalist Olivia Maisel has recorded an album of ballads titled A Moment in Time (self-produced).  She has support from a fine quartet comprising Thélonious Garcia on piano, Luc Herrmann on guitar, Alex Le Blanc on bass, and John Buck on drums.  Her eight-song program tells “A story of unity, a past we hold in common, a present we could experience together and a future of hope and change.”  To convey this concept, she has included “Crazy He Calls Me,” “My Foolish Heart,” The Nearness of You,” “Send in the Clowns,” “Easy to Love,” “Embraceable You,” “Que Reste-t-il De Nos Amours,” known in English as “I Wish You Love,” and “Last Time for Love.” a rarely heard song by Carmen McRae.  Maisel’s pleasant voice and gentle approach to the songs creates an intimate mood.   Lyric interpretation is a key to making an album like this effective, and Maisel hits the spot with her reading of each song.  (

This Could Be the Start of Something is the latest release from vocalist Linda Purl.  Her regular pianist/arranger, Tedd Firth has conceived his typically inventive charts for this 12-song program.  Abetting Purl and Firth are bassist David Finck, drummer Ray Marchica, and reedist Nelson Rangell.  They provide fine support for Purl’s confident and jazzy vocals.  Along with several standards, “This Could Be the Start of Something Big,” “I’m in the Mood for Love,” “Let’s Get Lost,” “Blue Moon,” “Dream Dancing,” “How High the Moon,” “I Love Being Here with You”, and “Wrap Your Troubles (in Dreams),” Purl has a couple of Sondheim songs, “Live Alone and Like It” and “Not While I’m Around,” a too often ignored Cy Coleman/Carolyn Leigh gem, “Let Me Down Easy,” and a jazz tune by Carla Bley and Terri Lyne Carrington, “Two Hearts (Lawns).”  With a program of this variety, Purl gets to demonstrate that she is comfortable at any tempo, and her sense of swing is always there.  Rather than the start of something, this album is a continuation of her fine output.  (

Vocalist Jo Harrop and pianist Paul Edis have released a much-acclaimed album, When Winter Turns to Spring (Lateralize – 15), winner of the 2023 Parliamentary Jazz Awards Album of the Year.  The program consists of 11 selections, nine of them composed by Edis.  Harrop provided the lyrics for four of them, Kate Edis for three of them, Paul Edis for one song, and one is an instrumental.  The other selections are Thad Jones’ and Alec Wilder’s “A Child Is Born” with a vocal by Harrop, and Edis’s interpretation of “In the Bleak Midwinter” by Gustav Holst.  Harrop has a rich, dusky voice and invests each selection with emotional commitment.  She is among the most impressive vocalists that I have encountered in recent years.  Edis is a superb accompanist, has created terrific charts and has chosen a variety of musicians on each track to achieve the effects that he desires with his arrangements.  (

After close to a decade devoted to raising her daughter, vocalist Maci Miller has returned to her singing career with her fifth album, Nine (self-produced).  It is apparent from the first track, a spirited reading of “High Wire” by Chick Corea and Tony Cohan, that she has not lost a thing during her hiatus.  The nine-song program includes seven with lyrics by Miller, six with her pianist, Aaron Graves, and one that she wrote for Cedar Walton’s “Firm Roots.” Graves on piano/organ, Mike Boone on bass and either Byron Landham or Josh Orlando on drums form the basic backup group.  Other contributors are tenor sax master Larry McKenna on two tracks, Victor North on soprano for “High Wire”, and Jeremy Pelt on the album’s only standard, “The Nearness of You.”  Miller has a fine voice, on pitch and swinging, full of jazz feeling and attentive to the nuances of the lyrics. (

For more than a decade, vocalist Vanessa Thomas has been touring with Doc Severinsen in addition to garnering much critical acclaim in her solo appearances.  Finally, she has released her first album as a leader, Life Is Like a Song (self-produced), and it is well worth the wait.  She is joined on the 13-song program by pianist/arranger Roger Wilder, bassist Eric Hitt and drummer John Kizlarmut, with tenor saxophonist Matt Otto playing on six tracks and trumpeter Clint Ashlock joining in on “´Every Day I Have the Blues.”  The selections give Thomas opportunities to showcase her rangy, powerful voice as well as her innate sense of swing.  The songs include “Cheek to Cheek,” “At Last,” “Every Day I Have the Blues,” “Smile,” “Summertime,” “Creole Love Call,” “I’m Beginning to See the Light,” “Come Sunday,” “Orange Colored Sky,” “Tenderly,” “I Let a Song Go out of My Heart,” “Stardust” and “Can’t Take My Eyes Off of You.”  This is a strong outing from Thomas, and it is almost unfair to single out any tracks. However, “Creole Love Call” and “Come Sunday” are particularly notable.  This may be her first release, but there should be many to follow.  (

Acclaimed Canadian songstress Emilie-Claire Barlow has not released an album for five years. Her lifelong fascination with birds made her particularly taken by the yellow-winged Cacique that she encountered during a trip to Mexico.  This, combined with the daily chorus of birds that greeted her each morning at her home in Canada, inspired her to conceive an album that would have a program of songs that related to birds.  The results can be heard on Spark Bird (Empress Music – 464), a collection of seven songs, “Over the Rainbow,” “Fais comme l’oiseau,” “Skylark,” “O,” “Where Will I Be,” “Little Jazz Bird” and “Pájaros de Barro.”  The cast of musicians changes for each track, ranging in size from one to six players.  As you listen to the album, Barlow’s voice grabs your attention immediately and holds it firm.  Jazz underlies her style, and she is well supported by whichever musicians are playing on each track.  (

The Golden Sèkèrè (Rhombus – 7550) is a fascinating collection of standards by Douyé, a Nigerian-born vocalist who now resides in Los Angeles.  Her vocalizing is straight-ahead with jazz influences, but the charts reflect the rhythms of her native country.  She has a warm voice and a fine feeling for the lyrics.  Douyé’s well-selected program blends a range of tempi and varying instrumentation from a bass/percussion duo to a big band.  The songs include “Cherokee,” “Speak Low,” “The Very Thought of You,” “My Funny Valentine,” “I’ve Got You Under My Skin “ (two versions), “Fly Me to the Moon,” “Afro Blue,” “It Don’t Mean a Thing (If It Ain’t Got That Swing),” “Green Dolphin Street,” “I’m Confessin’ (That I Love You),” Key Largo,” “Azure” ,and “Devil May Care.”  The matching of the Great American Songbook material with a variety of African rhythms is an interesting conception that is well executed on album.  (

It is always nice to hear a debut album that sounds like the work of an experienced recording artist.  Such is the case with Times Like These (self-produced) by Nica Carrington.  With support from a trio of first-call Los Angeles musicians, pianist John Proulx, bassist Chuck Berghofer and drummer Joe LaBarbera, she handles the 11-song program with confidence and a welcoming style.  The songs are familiar standards: “Skylark,” “Left Alone,” “When Sunny Gets Blue,” “Ev’ry Time We Say Goodbye,” “We’ll Be Together Again,” “The Summer Knows,” “The Summer Knows,” “You Don’t Know What Love Is,” “Angel Eyes,” “The Shadow of Your Smile” ,and “Here’s to Life.”  Most singers avoid doing albums that are strictly ballads to keep things moving and avoid a same old, same old feeling.  Carrington has a voice that is so easy on the ears that you do not notice the profusion of ballads.  A lot of that is also a tribute to the artful accompaniment of Proulx, Berghofer and LaBarbera.  The one number where the pace is picked up a bit is “Left Alone,” a too often overlooked song by Mal Waldron and Billie Holiday.  Nica Carrington is off to a great start with Times Like These, and should give us more pleasurable vocals like these.  (

Chicago has long been a city that vocalists choose as a home base.  One of the fine ones currently on that scene is Tracye Eileen.  On You Hit the Spot (Honey Crystal Records) Eileen splits the eight selections between two instrumental settings.  For “I Love Being Here with You,” “You Hit the Spot” and “The End of a Love Affair,” she has a sextet comprising Jeremy Kahn on piano, Jon Deitmeyer on drums, Stewart Miller on bass, Steve Eisen on reeds, Raphael Crawford on trombone and Victor Garcia on trumpet.  This group produces a sound that is larger than one might expect from only six players, and Eileen blends comfortably with Thomas Gunther’s fine charts.  On the remaining five tracks, “They Can’t Take That Away from Me,” “Almost Like Being in Love,” “The Very Thought of You,” “Just in Time” and “This Can’t Be Love,” she is accompanied by her trio of Dennis Luxion on piano, Paul Martin on bass and Linard Stroud on drums.  The trio tracks were recorded live at Piano Forte.  Eileen, who has also recorded in a soul/R&B style, is equally adept at putting across standards in jazz settings.  You Hit the Spot does indeed hit the spot!  (

Mafalda Minnozzi was born in Italy, moved to Brazil, recently resettled in New York City, and has established a career as a singer with an international following.  For almost three decades, her musical partnership with New York City-based guitarist/producer/arranger Paul Ricci has been a fruitful one. They met in Brazil, and have explored music from Italy, Brazil, France, and America with the jazz influence of Ricci affecting Minnozzi’s approach to her artistry.  Natural Impression (MPI – 2320) is a 15-song collection with Minnozzi accompanied by Ricci on guitar, Helio Alves on piano, Eduardo Belo on bass, and Rogerio Boccato on drums, with guest appearances by Joe Locke, Don Byron, John Patitucci, Michael Wolff, Doug Beavers, Kassin, and Brazilian music legend Roberto Menescal.  The selections are by an impressive roster of international songwriters, including Antonio Carlos Jobim, Ivan Lins, Luiz Bonfá, Jacques Brel, Caetano Veloso, Jorge Ben, João Bosco, Lucio Battisti, and Roberto Menescal.  Most of the tunes are of Brazilian origin, and many will be familiar to those who have listened to bossa nova music.  Minnozzi does each one justice with her flexible and appealing voice.    ( – Download only)

Very often, vocalists for whom English is not their primary language have an accent that can be a bit distracting when they sing in English.  Yuka Mito, who is originally from Japan, barely has a hint of an accent, and her superb vocalizing overcomes whatever accent comes through.  Love in the City (self-produced) is her second album.  Mito has a first-rate band with pianist/arranger Allen Farnham, bassist Dean Johnson, drummer Tim Horner, and saxophonist Vincent Herring.  She performs four standards, “I Got Rhythm,” “My Funny Valentine,” “Love Me or Leave Me” and “I’ll Remember April;” a scat romp on “Four Brothers; and two originals, “Love in the City,” an ode to her adopted home of New York City, and “Memory of Father,” a remembrance of her father sung in Japanese.  At any tempo, Mito impressively conveys the essence of the song.  It took Mito 12 years after her debut album, Time After Time, to get her back in the studio.  Let’s hope that the wait for her next recording is a shorter one.  (

When Sunshine in Manhattan arrived in the mail seven years ago and the notes indicated that it was the debut recording by a 77-yer old singer named Masumi Ormandy, I was apprehensive about what I was about to hear.  My concerns were quickly dispelled when it started playing, and it was reviewed in the October 2016 issue of JJ.  Now her follow up release, Beyond the Sea, (Miles High – 8636) has arrived and, at 84, she still has it.  Given the musicians surrounding her, the basic trio of Allen Farnham on piano, Dean Johnson on bass and Tim Horner on drums, with contributions from tenor saxophonists Houston Person and Tim Ries, trumpeter Bria Skonberg, trombonist John Allred, soprano saxophonist Danny Bacher, guitarists Chieli Minucci and Paul Meyers, flutist Anders Bostrom, percussionist Mini Cinelu, violinist Sara Caswell, and cellist Jody Redhage Ferber, she has the kind of support that is just what the doctor ordered.  The songs are mostly familiar standards, “Beyond the Sea,” “I Can’t Give You Anything but Love, Baby,” “Smile,” “Here’s to Life,” “I’m Through with Love,” “Tea for Two,” “I Left My Heart in San Francisco” and “It’s Only a Paper Moon,” plus a couple of songs of Japanese origin  “Like a River Flowing (Kawa No Nagare Yō Ni)” and “Ringo No Uta (Apple Song).”  This amazing lady has found a calling late in life that is bringing pleasure to herself and those who get to hear her impressive vocalizing.   ( LANG


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