Joanne Tatham Swings on New Release


THE RINGS OF SATURN / DONALDSON-KAHN: love Me or Leave Me. FRANKS: Summer in New York.* WINKLER-BRUGGERMAN: Catch Me if You Can. SNOW: Poetry Man. GABLE: The Rings of Saturn. RUNDGREN: Can We Still Be Friends?+# JOBIM: If You Never Come to Me. SONDHEIM: Anyone Can Whistle. JOHN & PAUL WILLIAMS: Nice to Be Around.+ JOBIM-DE MORAES-GIMBEL: Jazz ‘n’ Samba (So Danço Samba). VAN HEUSEN-BURKE: It Could Happen to You# / Joanne Tatham, voc; +Brian Swartz, tpt; #Bob Sheppard, t-sax; Max Haymer, pn; Marcel Camargo, *Larry Koonse, gtr; Lyman Medeiros, bs; Dan Schnelle, dm; Kevin Winard, perc / Café Pacific Records CPCD 14060

Joanne Tathum has been a singer since she was her New Jersey high school, working with an all-girl vocal group that sang standards and show tunes. She also worked as a single doing weddings, bowling banquets and New Year’s Eve parties before she married TV writer Chuck Tatham and moved to Los Angeles with him. There, she got into jazz singing, performing at the Cinegrill, Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel and at Herb Alpert’s Vibrato Grill and Jazz. As she puts it, “I can’t believe I had the nerve, but I actually walked up to him one day when he was there checking on construction, and gave him a copy of my first CD. I began playing there almost from the day it opened!”

On this disc, Tatham is lucky to have an outstanding, swinging group of musicians whose playing is anything but “lounge” style. They swing, and so does she. Tatham does hold back a bit on her voice, not quite singing out as much as I’d like, but she has great jazz timing. And I don’t just mean in a generic sense. Tatham holds back on the beat, pushes it forward, and adds little quasi-beats to the rhythm when she sings. Max Haymer is a pianist who catches her mood and style perfectly through his instrument, playing swinging, sparse choruses and breaks as she sings. She can also improvise on the melody while sticking to the lyrics—in other words, where other singers would just scat, Tatham holds onto the words while inventing her own choruses. Love Me or Leave Me is a perfect introduction to her and her style, and I loved the way she and the band do a samba-like treatment of Summer in New York, where her “New Joisey” accent sneaks through a bit. (I’m from New Jersey myself, so I’m not being critical, just factual.) Haymer creates a softly swirling mélange of notes in his first solo on this one, and the tight rhythm section is a delight. Guest guitarist Larry Koonse plays a nice solo on this one, too.

Tatham is particularly good on Catch Me if You Can, her rhythmic sense as sharp as that of any jazz soloist. And the backup band really cooks on this one, Haymer playing a single-line solo as fine as any you’d hear from a first-rank pianist. Kevin Winard’s tight drumming is both subtle and propulsive at the same time. I was interested to hear what she could do with Phoebe Snow’s Poetry Man, particularly since Snow was really a “soft rock” singer and not a jazz writer. She performs it as a ballad, which isn’t too surprising, and resorts to some ultra-breathiness here that didn’t really grab me, but still manages to infuse the music with a jazz feeling. And her backup band does not disappoint.

Both Tatham and the band cook pretty well on The Rings of Saturn, also played with a Latin beat. In a few bars, she seems to have double-tracked her own voice for effect. Another surprise on the disc is a song by Todd Rundgren, Can We Still Be Friends? Here, she most definitely converts it into a jazz tune, played in a swinging 4 and featuring guests Brian Swartz on trumpet and Bob Sheppard on sax, playing nice, swinging licks behind her. One of things I really liked about Tatham is that she is part of the band, and not just a voice-accompanied-by-instruments. Listen, for instance, to the way her solo follows those of Sheppard and Swartz, more minimal in terms of notes but no less inventive rhythmically. And she opens up the voice a bit more in the final bars, which I wished she would do more often. Antonio Carlos Jobim’s If You Never Come to Me could almost have been tailor-made for her, so good is her phrasing and rhythm, at one point scatting along with Marcel Camargo’s guitar and Haymer’s piano. This is surely one of the highlights of the album, with bassist Medeiros also getting a nice solo.

Sondheim’s Anyone Can Whistle is a show tune turned ballad, with Tatham again in whispery mode, but also swinging in a light, relaxed style. Nice to be Around is also given the ballad treatment. Predictably, things heat up a bit in Jobim’s So Danço Samba, here retitled Jazz ‘n Samba. Both Tatham and the band cook beautifully on this one, with her voice bouncing off Camargo’s guitar. The closer, It Could Happen to You, is a medium-slow piece alternating between 4 and 3 in which Tatham swings gently with the band, featuring nice licks from Sheppard on tenor and a nicely swinging Haymer solo. Tatham then scats with Sheppard for a chorus before the saxist takes off on his own.

This is a nice introduction to this singer and this band, very rewarding for the most part. Recommended.

—© 2018 Lynn René Bayley

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