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Lorraine Feather: On the Road (Less Traveled)

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Lorraine Feather
Lorraine Feather's live performances are legendary. Her skills as a lyricist, well known to fans of her recordings of Fats Waller and Duke Ellington material and recent work like her new CD Ages (Jazzed Media, 2010), bloom wildly under the stage lights. Where some performers like to glance sideways with short anecdotes between songs, Feather prefers to be a real raconteur and plunge in headlong, punctuating her insightful musical commentary with tales that are an organic part of her performance.

As Will Friedwald wrote of her performance at the Algonquin in his New York Sun review of February 8, 2008, “Lorraine Feather is expanding the jazz repertoire in her own idiosyncratic way and showcasing the power of composition as much as the power of performance."

But despite the great press Feather has always gotten for her live shows, she's not been much of a road warrior of late.

Part of the reason for this has been logistics. After being based in Los Angeles and performing with pianist/composer Shelly Berg, she and her husband Tony Morales moved to the San Juan Islands north of Seattle, while Berg accepted a position as Dean of the University of Miami's Frost School of Music. Literally, they'd moved to opposite ends of the continental U.S.

“I've had something of a hiatus from live performing with Shelly. It's challenging to work things out logistically/financially with us so far apart, but we just booked the Lakeshore Jazz Series in Tempe, AZ for February of next year, and we'll be doing more." Their geographic separation has also been an artistic barrier for her, because in a world teeming with jazz pianists, Berg is that uniquely adept stylist whose vast technique and repertoire have enabled him to successfully channel Feather's ghostly songwriting “partners" like Waller and keep her tidal wave of stride and lyrical intricacies flowing fast enough and accurately enough to support her in performance. Shelly Berg has been a hard act to follow.

But just this last week the lyricist/singer got together with the phenomenally gifted young pianist, Stephanie Trick, for two days of rehearsal. Already considered by many of her peers to be among the best stride pianists in the world when she was but 21 years old, Trick was invited to perform at the 2008 International Stride and Swing Summit in Boswil, Switzerland and has been invited back again this fall.

Feather described their first collaboration with admiring praise, saying ." . . she not only is spectacular but she learned “You're Outa Here" [Feather's lyricised rendition of Waller's “The Minor Drag"] for the occasion, transcribing it herself exactly as Dick Hyman played it [on Feather's recording New York City Drag (Rhombus, 2001)], supporting the melodic or rhythmic variations I did on the original track ."

The result is that she and the 23-yr.-old St.Louis-based phenom are putting together a stride show “we are going to launch in the spring. Irvin Arthur of Park Avenue Talent is booking it."

All of which portends well for thee and me.

“I'm ramping up to do more live singing. I had a great gig June 12th at Bake's, near Seattle, with two terrific Seattle musicians, pianist Randy Halberstadt and bassist Jon Hamar [doing material from her critically acclaimed new CD, Ages (Jazzed Media, 2010)] and will be doing a big band thing with the Spokane Jazz Society on September 26th. Russ [Ferrante], composer of the haunting “The Girl with the Lazy Eye" on Ages and founding member of the Yellowjackets] and I are going to be performing in L.A. together before long."

If you have the opportunity to see Lorraine Feather perform live in one of these venues, don't hesitate.

She's also been hard at work writing and recording a new CD.

“The process of doing a new album, with writing involved, takes about a year from starting the first song to the mastering process at the end for me. I have songs in the works with Eddie [Arkin] and Russell, and there's one that's an adaptation of a piece by the Italian pianist Enrico Pieranunzi There is a concept, which I'd describe as being on the mysterious and trippy side."

So it's good news for Lorraine Feather fans, who can look forward to a “mysterious and trippy" concept album, and a year that will feature live performances in small, intimate settings as well as bigger ones, including a big band romp through her rich Ellington-based material. Dates will be posted as they become available.

This story appears courtesy of Jazz (Jazzers Jazzing) by Carl L. Hager.
Copyright © 2016. All rights reserved.

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