The core element of vocal artistry is the ability to capture the essence of a song and interpret it in a way that is totally personal, highly compelling and intended to make the composer smile in agreement. The outstanding jazz vocalist Halie Loren does all of that, as her latest Justin Time Records release, Simply Love (available September 10), vividly demonstrates. It also provides a clear understanding as to why she’s received so many critical accolades and worldwide popularity. At 28-years-old, the multi-lingual vocalist has performed at major festivals and in sold-out concert halls in North America, Asia and Europe, which included traveling to Palermo, Italy to perform as a featured soloist with the Orchestra Jazz Siciliana. She has recorded seven critically acclaimed albums garnering best song and best album awards, while consistently placing at the top of the jazz charts in Japan. Simply Love is her fourth release on Justin Time Records.
“With Simply Love, I wanted to meet the mood of the season,” the Eugene, Oregon-based songstress says. “What kind of soundtrack would I want to listen to in the warmer months?”
There is an intimacy in her singing that makes the listeners feel that her message is only intended for their own ears, heart and soul. With a voice that is so warmly and deeply lyrical, and an ability to articulate lyrics that draws every iota of meaning out of each syllable, Loren accomplishes what every singer strives for – to make every song, regardless of who wrote it or performed it previously, entirely her own.
“Synergy is so essential to my music” Loren explains, “and this longevity has really helped us to achieve that over all these years.”
Joining the long-time central quartet (Loren with pianist Matt Treder, bassist Mark Schneider and drummer Brian West) are guitarists William Seiji Marsh on five tracks and Daniel Gallo on one. Another powerful element of this recording is the use of a string quartet on two tracks, (violinists Dave Burham and Lisa McWhorter, cellist Dale Bradley and Clark Spencer on viola), with Burham and Bradley also performing on one other. Treder’s brilliant string arrangements utilize the string quartet in its traditional form on the exquisite “Le Premier Bonheur du Jour” (sung in French) and subtly orchestral through tasteful overdubbing on the buoyant Bossa Nova, “Cuando Bailamos” (a Loren original, co-written with the late Larry Wayne Clark). The cello has always had a place on all of Loren’s albums, its deep sonority totally complementary to the richness of her voice. Here, it’s combined with violin to add additional depth and tantalizing tension to the deliciously dramatic tango, “I’ve Got to See You Again.”
Other subtleties abound in this fully conceived and visionary production. Brief vocal overdubs crop up here and there, always on-point to enhance the moment. A pair of ukuleles (played by Craig Chee and Ali Losik Heyer) provides an effervescent zest to the delightful Loren/Rich Chudacoff original, “Bare Feet.” Sergei Teleshev’s button accordion adds a special flavor to both “Le Premier Bonheur du Jour” and to the title track, another Loren original (with Benita Hill) that closes the album on an emotionally resounding note of filigreed elegance.
In both live performances and recordings, Loren performs her own songs with re-imaginings of classic popular tunes that span more than half a century. On this album, Rogers & Hart’s timeless “My Funny Valentine,” “Best & Watson’s “For Sentimental Reasons,” and Henry Mancini’s “Moon River” are delicately and deeply heartfelt ballad showcases for Loren’s gorgeous voice. Bert Kaempfert’s “L-O-V-E” is an emphatically rhythmic groover; and Jimmy McHugh’s “On the Sunny Side of the Street” is a joyfully playful jaunt. “Dream a Little Dream of Me,” (Les Yeux Ouverts) is a torchy but uplifting dual language version of the 1931 standard.
Highly unique re-imaginings of a pair of gigantic hits round out this remarkable album. Carole King’s “I Feel the Earth Move” is a vibrant, pulsing gem of suspended rhythmic thrust and sinuous vocalizing, and The Turtles’ “Happy Together” is a celebratory, exuberant foray into gospel-bluesiness.
The musicianship of the supporting ensemble is exemplary throughout. They perform with enormous empathy and a crystalline clarity toward the essence of the musical vision – a testament to the synergy that Loren describes. With Simply Love, Loren says that she was “striving for positivity, celebratory love and life.” She clearly hit her target square on.