I wasn't aware of Ms. Jaz until I received a promotional disk in the mail. Before I opened the CD and started to listen to it I did I quick search on the internet and immediately found that she already has at least one album to her credit and a following in Cincinnati Ohio. Ms. Jaz arrived on the scene in 2002 with her CD "Chances". The web site "CD Baby" has posted news of her albums being named one of the Top Ten Albums of the year according to a Jazz station in British Columbia, Canada in 2003, and named by Cincinnati's Citybeat Magazine as one of the "Top Local Artists to Produce a CD on A National Level".
So, the question needs to be asked - how come I haven't heard of her before this week? Bluntly, she's not the stereotypical new-comer. She's not young and slim and won't compete with the likes of Britney Spears, Lindsey Lohan or even Norah Jones. Nor should she have to - she deserves better.
There's something brave about a performer who doesn't fit the mold of what the media or the general consensus thinks a new performer should look like. There's something about someone who defies age, stereotypes and the odds and says to the world: "This is me, this is who am, this is what I'm doing... accept me for who I am." Doing so can be a little scary and intimidating as you're putting yourself out there. You can just feel the butterflies in your stomach just thinking about the last time you did something to make you feel that way (and if you haven't, you haven't lived.) and I empathies with anyone who's doing so now. I'm rooting for Ms. Jaz!
With this album, you can identify with that emotion. It translates very well on this live album. While listening to this album I can sense her initial nervousness and apprehension with the first few bars of music. Here, Ms. Jaz goes into a club to sing a short list of songs (Could be just one set of songs during a whole night, or just the best of an entire evening of singing) and wins over the crowd with each song performed. Soon after the second or third cut, what could have been a potential lion's den becomes friendly crowd...
... Which is why I'm becoming a bigger fan of Jazz as a music genre - not only is it friendly to fedora clad audience members and the perfect soundtrack to our daily lives, it's a pure meritocracy. The focus is less on looks and more on talent. Experience over appearance.
As for the actual album, I'm always dubious over live albums. They come in two categories - essential listening or disks that become coasters. As of this writing I can assure you the album IS NOT sitting under my coffee mug.
Ms. Jaz does cover's of 8 songs (9 if you count "Happy Birthday" to Rose, a member of the audience...) most of which I've already heard before, but done in a way that makes each of these songs unique. What's the point of doing songs like "My Funny Valentine," "Get Here," "Route 66" and "Sweetest Taboo," just like the people who made those songs famous? Why redo these songs that are standards on many other albums just like everyone else - like Natalie Cole's version of "Route 66," which has been done over and over again by people who came before her, including Ms. Cole's father?
Ms. Jaz does a good job answering that question, "What's the point of redoing songs already made famous or signature songs by other artists" by making these songs her own the night this disk was recorded. The best songs on this disk for me were the cuts "Guess Who I Saw Today" (Originally done by Nancy Wilson,) and the title track "Me, Too." written by my Bass Player and Musical Director Kerry "Smurf" Jordan. It originally appeared on first on Ms. Jaz's CD "Chances," which I've heard aired on a local radio station in New England (we have only two jazz stations here in New England, sadly...) and this is the first time I've been able to put a name to the voice that sings this song. All the other songs on this album have her own unique spin on them, making songs we're already familiar with fresh and new again.
The only songs I didn't care much for was her version of "The Girl from Ipanema" (Retiled "The Boy From Ipanema..") and the ill-placed Happy Birthday song that I mentioned earlier. They don't ruin the disk, but they just feel misplaced or don't belong...
Other then that, the album is perfect as far as live albums go. Most Live Albums from lesser known (but just as deserving) artists often tend to sound distorted or muffled with no stereo track or you're unable to distinguish between interments because the producer was unable to channel each one correctly. This album has very few of those problems, with the exception of a few brief moments when it should like Ms. Jaz is too close to the microphone or the two instances of mic-feedback.
Besides a few minor flaws, you can actual feel the mood of The Rooftop Jazz Room at the Chez Nora Restaurant when this was recorded. I can actually feel or sense the flavor that was in the air that night and I have a slight bit of envy for not being their the night the album was recorded. That's what great jazz does - it's sets the mood of the evening. Listening to this album makes it hard for anyone to feel anything else but besides romantic and happy.
This is a good live album and has me looking forward to listening to other albums of hers in the future.