Janice Borla Group
"Promises to Burn"
"Among the best, boldest and most innovative vocalists around…Working exclusively with Borla's arrangements, the sextet exercises its fervent cohesion across a marvelously wide-ranging playlist…vocal-based jazz symbiosis rarely reaches such splendor." Christopher Loudon, Jazz Times
"…Her voice is an instrument to be reckoned with. She is a force of nature."
Jack Goodstein, BlogCritics
"Superb! The voice of Janice is a jewel, her group shows that it's a pleasure to play with her." Serge Warin, Radio Grand Brive, France
"…Round and polished performances geared toward showing off Borla's impressive scat and vocalese capabilities…Borla has chops to spare." C. Michael Bailey, All About Jazz
"Superb album...One of the best singers in the Chicago area… Her scat singing is quite inventive, revealing a deep knowledge of jazz harmony." Tom Cunniffe, Jazz History Online
"Janice makes clear with her full, rich vocal sound and her superb musicianship that jazz singing is in more than capable hands." Bruce Crowther, Jazz Mostly
"While the music challenges preconceptions about this music (and vocal jazz in general), Borla's presentation is quite accessible, and easy to appreciate by any open-minded listeners. (Her) scatting…is irresistible. The entire album is wonderful! Great arrangements."
Randy Morse, The Best of Brazil
"…Always hipster-cool, literati inventive, and friendly while dancing on the outskirts of traditional forms." Mark Tucker, AcousticMusic.com
"What a quandary…Which track to play from a CD that is perfect?"
Tony Soley, 10Radio, United Kingdom
There is often a certain element of debate as to what makes someone a jazz singer. But in the case of the outstanding vocalist Janice Borla that debate will never take place. From the opening bars of her remarkable new album Promises to Burn on Tall Grass Records, there is no doubt that this is jazz at its purest.
Eschewing the vocalist with accompaniment approach for that of a fully integrated instrumental ensemble, Janice takes on eight challenging compositions, many of which would be unexpected material for a vocalist. To accomplish this successfully, a clear vision of structure is demanded, and Janice’s formidable arranging artistry is fully up to the task.
Composers like Lennie Tristano, Jack DeJohnette, Bob Mintzer and Bill Evans are generally not names that show up on vocalists’ albums, but they’re all represented here alongside Leonard Bernstein, Tadd Dameron and Joey Calderazzo. Janice has also assembled an exceptional ensemble of musicians for the project, all of whom play in the conversational style that is ideal for telling the stories that are told in this extraordinary album. The rapport of all of the musicians is exemplary. Art Davis on trumpet and flugelhorn, bassist Bob Bowman and Janice’s husband and drummer Jack Mouse have all performed on Janice’s three previous albums. Guitarist John McLean was on one, and Scott Robinson on tenor sax and flute is recording with Janice for the first time here. The arrangements provide a broad palette of textures and contexts for interaction – harmonized, contrapuntal and improvisational, and with plenty of room for blowing.
Janice’s beautiful, rounded voice and flawless intonation is often in scat mode here, with her wordless lyrics shaped to sound more like a horn. And like an instrumentalist, when she sings written lyrics, she does so in a manner that states the melodic line to create the framework from which the solo will emerge.
Two beautiful ballads are an exception to this approach, and are offered in a more straightforward and traditional manner. Bernstein’s Some Other Time – with lyrics by Betty Comden and Adolph Green – is given a most tender treatment, dreamlike and serene. Janice’s lovely understated vocal and a delicate, genteel tenor solo by Robinson slips into a freewheeling guitar/vocal/sax improv with a rubato feel before a lyrical bass solo leads into the closing theme of this enchanting piece. Tadd Dameron’s If You Could See Me Now was composed for Sarah Vaughan and aptly demonstrates its composer’s “above all, it must be beautiful” approach.
With just guitar and bass Janice gives Carl Sigman’s poignant lyrics a most sensitive portrayal expressing the essence of the piece in spare, undiluted form.
Another classic ballad receives a most imaginative transformation. Don Raye and Gene DePaul’s You Don’t Know What Love Is – a song performed by countless jazz vocalists and instrumentalists of all styles – receives a delectable samba-ish treatment here with scintillating interplay between voice and guitar. Soulful tenor, luminous scatting and lyrical bass solos lead into a closing where the samba feel is embraced and then released as the piece is taken to a powerful emotional climax.
Easy swing – so confident that it almost swaggers – is the mode for Joey Calderazzo’sMidnight Voyage. Janice gives Christine Helferich’s lyrics a sinuously simmering treatment with strut-walking bass and horns that sound like a vocal chorus. A mellifluous Art Famer-invoking flugelhorn solo, soul-tinged guitar and a delicious scat solo add to the captivating texture.
An evocative, highly atmospheric mood permeates Jack DeJohnette’s Silver Hollow. A paean to the sound of Jack’s longtime label ECM Records, the melody is nicely layered with euphonious flute and flugelhorn voicings and infectious call and response with Janice. Warmly embracing flugelhorn, full-bodied flute, a radiant flute/vocal duo and stirring guitar, all contribute mightily to the evolution of this piece’s richly expressed narrative.
Bill Evans’ Funkallero opens the album on a jaunty note with a wordless, playful bass/voice unison in bouncy syncopation before Janice sings Karen Gallinger’s wry lyrics. Bowman’s nicely suspended woodiness and Mouse’s brilliant brushwork provides a Latin-ish feel under the guitar, tenor and harmon-muted trumpet solos before a delicious scat/drums duet takes the piece into the closing voice/bass unison theme.
Two scorchers complete this delightful album. Bob Mintzer’s RunFerYerLife is a smoker with a staccato, heavily syncopated unison theme. Vivid guitar comping and sprightly walking bass set the framework for a rollicking scat excursion, a highly articulate trumpet solo and an exciting turn on tenor, leading into an ensemble riff-peppered dynamically-charged drum solo by Mouse – whose playing throughout the album is absolutely perfect.
The legendary Lennie Tristano’s Lennie’s Pennies is given a stunning treatment. His own take on Pennies From Heaven is offered with rapid-fire boppish vocal/guitar unison and closes out with spectacular three-part harmony on the challenging theme. In between, supported by a deeply-wooded bass line in a briskly complex walk, is a dancing brightly-grooved scat solo, nimble guitar and a fluidly lyrical tenor solo that would make Warne Marsh smile.
Consummate musicianship, astonishing interplay, and a sense of joyfully unfettered creativity that permeates this entire album make Promises to Burn a truly uplifting experience.
April 4 "An Evening with Vocalist Janice Borla"
with Art Davis (trumpet/flugelhorn), John McLean (guitars), Jim Cox (bass) and Jack Mouse (drums)
featuring selections from her new CD Promises to Burn
Wentz Fine Arts Center
North Central College
Aug 11-16 Janice Borla Vocal Jazz Camp & Concert Series
with Madeline Eastman & Kate McGarry (vocalists); also Art Davis (trumpet), Brad Stirtz (vibes), Dan Haerle (piano), Bob Bowman (bass) and Jack Mouse (drums)
Birch Creek Music Performance Center
Egg Harbor, WI
Jim Eigo Jazz Promo Services