Sunday, March 25, 2012

HALIE LOREN'S FIFTH ALBUM IS SOMETHING TO BEHOLD


I promised Maureen McFadden of DL Media, the company that handles publicity for Justin Time Records, I’d spend some alone time with your new album ”Heart First”. Maureen shipped it to me a few weeks ago.  I gave it my undivided attention Saturday afternoon. I couldn’t find anything wrong with it. Not that I was searching for flaws. Nowadays, it seems impossible to make a flawless album., but you pulled it off. 

Of the albums by jazz singers I received this year, “Heart First” is the one that stands out the most. Before I played it,  I did some homework. I discovered you grew up in Nashville, and started writing songs as a teenager. “Heart First” is your fifth album, and overseas you're a big star.

You've been compared to Norah Jones and to Diana Krall.  Loren, from where I sit, you’re a better singer than they are. “Heart First” showed you have more versatility. At times, Norah can be bland, and not so long ago Diana was pound for pound the best jazz singer around. Now she’s a crossover sensation. You're a singer who can't be typecast. 

In general, what bugs me most about jazz singers is their reluctance to step outside their comfort zone of singing mostly jazz standards. There’s nothing criminal about singing standards, but what's the point if jazz singers are going to sing them like Ella Fitzgerald, Sarah Vaughn and Billie Holiday did. 

At any rate, I was happy you chose to sing mostly new songs such as “Tender to the Touch” and “Woman’s Way”.  And it was cool how you dolled up the oldies “My One and Only Love,” and “All of Me”. On that one you slowed the tempo down to a crawl. The organ in the background was a nice nuance. 

You put a lot of thought into “Heart First”. That much is obvious. None of the arrangements were overwrought. You pampered each song. It was clever closing the album with a redesign of Van Morrison’s gem “Crazy Love”. Monday, I'm going to drop Maureen a note, thanking her for staying on my case about listening to "Heart First"
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