Listen Here is at once both a testimony and a tribute ─ a testimony to this artist’s love of exploration, and a tribute to celebrate some of her favorite lyricists. It features two originals (one penned by Grammy Award winners Marilyn and Alan Bergman), some of the jazz world's finest musicians, and offers up a lyrical bounty ─ and Jackie's best recording yet.
Known as a musician's singer," Jackie regularly attracts top-flight talent to her recordings. Her last outing ─ a double CD, DOOZY ─ featured Cyrus Chestnut, Eric Alexander, Jeremy Pelt, Carl Allen, Ray Drummond and Romero Lumbambo, garnered universal praise (4-Stars from both DOWNBEAT and AMG), and held the #1 position nationwide on JazzWeek's industry-standard chart for a record-breaking 7 solid weeks. Her previous CD, featuring Red Holloway, Tamir Hendelman, and Jeff Hamilton among others, also received 4 stars from AMG and DOWNBEAT, and cemented Jackie’s position as: “One of the outstanding jazz vocalists of her generation and, quite possibly, of all time," as JAZZTIMES stated. In addition, Ms. Ryan has recorded and/or performed with jazz greats: Toots Thielemans, Clark Terry, Terry Gibbs, Buddy DeFranco, Ernie Watts, Scott Hamilton, Amina Figarova, Mike Wofford, Jon Mayer, Larry Vuckovich, Barry Harris, Bill Cunliffe, Shelly Berg, Benny Green, Emil Richards, and Jon Hendricks.
The extraordinary talents lending their gifts to this recording are no exception ─ foremost: GRAMMY-Award winning John Clayton who produced and arranged this CD for Jackie. Clayton has a gift for arranging for singers (Diana Krall, Dee Dee Bridgewater, Natalie Cole, George Benson, Gladys Knight, and Whitney Houston, among others), and this pairing with Jackie for John was a match made in musical heaven. I first paid attention to Jackie when I heard her stunning recordings with The Jeff Hamilton Trio,” John says. “Her version of 'BESAME MUCHO' stopped me in my tracks. Obviously, every vocalist’s sound is different ─ different people, different body sizes ─ but it’s what the vocalist DOES with their voice that draws me in. The warmth of Jackie’s sound immediately got to me. Add to that the way she uses her instrument and I was sold.” For these special recordings, John called on both members of the big band he co-leads ─ the GRAMMY-nominated Clayton-Hamilton Jazz Orchestra, and on members of the Clayton Brothers Quintet (nominated for two GRAMMY Awards) ─ they are: the extraordinarily talented pianist Gerald Clayton, fiery percussionist Obed Calvaire, soulful saxmaster Rickey Woodard, trumpet virtuoso Gilbert Castellanos, and gifted guitarist Graham Dechter. John also lent his prodigious talents as a bassist to this CD, digging out a bold, rock-solid groove when needed, or weaving a sensitive gentle bow ─ as on A Time For Love" — that melts into Ms. Ryan's sultry voice, dissolving into one harmonious caress.
Her rousing rendition of “The Gypsy In My Soul” perfectly reflects Jackie’s spirited exploratory nature. Surely there must be a gypsy in her soul ─ as evidenced not only by the far-reaching range of musical territory she covers in this heartfelt CD, but also by her lifelong love of jazz in all its manifold permutations. Jackie has always been ready to explore jazz’s variegated musical landscape ─ and, as you Listen Here," you will be joining her on an adventurous journey across a most inviting, expansive terrain ─ from the down home bluesiness of Comin' Home Baby” and the gospel-tinged Accentuate The Positive," to the rarified operatic realms of an American classic, I Loves You Porgy," the Spanish laminations of La Puerta" and the pulsating samba rhythms of To The Ends Of The Earth."
“One of the great things about being a jazz singer,” says Jackie, “is to be able to go to any country, anywhere in the world, and to sing with musicians there who know jazz ─ our international language ─ and to experience their take on jazz through their culture. People I meet in other countries may have different priorities about life. And in experiencing their priorities, you learn more about yourself, you learn what truly matters.”
Ms. Ryan has been featured on NPR, Voice of America, PRIMETIME A&E, and CNN TV en Español (which devoted an entire segment to her). But it is not by accident that her cross-cultural appeal, bridges the gap between both geography and generations," as BILLBOARD so aptly put it. Part Irish, part Mexican, she was born into it ─ and grew up listening to a unique blend of voices around her family’s small home. Her father, of Irish descent, was born and raised in San Francisco, working night shifts and educating himself in Greek and Latin and singing classical pieces around the house in his trained baritone ─ Brahms, Shubert, Tschaikovsky. Her mother (who sang operettas at the Teatro Degollado in Guadalajara) was Mexican and crooned Spanish folk songs to her as a child. “I always remember those romantic album covers she had with the matadors and Spanish ladies in brilliant colors; and the melodies I heard, the songs I heard, just filled me up. So that’s what I kept inside of me.” Tragically, Jackie lost her mother at the age of 15 and, as a memorial, always includes a Spanish song on her CDs ─ in this case, the “La Puerta.”
Ms. Ryan’s natural affinity for languages extends deeply into the language of jazz and deeply into its intricate structures. She possesses a keen ear for jazz phrasing and its internal rhymes ─ and, as a lyricist herself, has composed vocalese to the scorching sax solos of Benny Carter's Doozy" and Joe Henderson's The Kicker." Her love of a great lyric is reflected in her choices for this CD ─ a collection celebrating some of her favorite lyricists. From lesser recorded jazz gems such as Carolyn Leigh's wry lyrics unraveling the mysteries of attraction in How Little We Know," to Paul Webster's wistful reflections in A Time For Love.” From Carroll Coates' cautionary tale of love and loss in No One Ever Tells You," to Abbey Lincoln's joyous ode to love and life in Throw It Away.”
“Dear wonderful Abbey Lincoln was a true original, one of my heroines. I’ve been a fan of her ever since I saw her as an actress in ‘Nothing But A Man.’ She had a freedom of expression ─ a voice for social activism she shared with her husband, Max Roach ─ their ‘We Insist/Freedom Jazz Suite’ was a masterpiece,” Jackie says. “This freedom of expression is what drew me to jazz ─ having a voice and something to say, to give. Lyrics are very important to me when choosing a song. They need to be honest; they need to be clever; they need to speak to me in some way. A great lyricist knows how to work their words into a melody in a very artistic way. Like a dance between the writer of the lyric and the writer of the melody, the words need to weave themselves into the fabric of the melody in such a way that it touches you. A word placed in just the right spot in the melody will stand out and do that.”
In this collection, Jackie offers us many lyrical choices, culminating with the title track, Listen Here," a thought-provoking ballad by David Frishberg, tailor-made for Jackie's tender voice to deliver its message of spiritual encouragement (recorded as a duet with Gerald Clayton). In addition, the album features two originals: the first vocal recording of pianist Jon Mayer's Rip Van Winkle," with rousing lyrics by Mark Winkler; and the first recording of John Clayton's hauntingly beautiful “Before We Fall In Love" with lyrics by Marilyn and Alan Bergman.
Whether lingering over the seductive lyrics of Anytime, Any Day, Anywhere," or liberating life's passions in Throw It Away," whether capturing the heartbreak of a lover shut out forever as the door closes on romance in La Puerta," or pursuing her paramour's heart, To The Ends Of The Earth" ─ Jackie, and these recordings, will live in your heart. So give a Listen Here," and you will find, as others have, an extraordinarily versatile artist, now at the top of her game.