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BWW CD Review: The La Tanya Hall Albums Chart The Evolution Of An Artist

Like a musical yin and yang, two albums show different aspects of a glorious talent.

BWW CD Review: The La Tanya Hall Albums Chart The Evolution Of An Artist

There is a famous television special from a few years back called Gypsy In My Soul that features a moment when Lucille Ball and Shirley MacLaine demonstrate the different ways in which they would perform a musical number: the youthful, exuberant MacLaine dances full-energy with the "gypsies", while the wizened, experienced Ball struts, leaving the chorus kids to dance it out. That's what it felt like, listening to two La Tanya Hall CD's back to back.

First of all, the time spent listening to two La Tanya Hall albums in a row is time well spent and an experiment in musical consumption wholeheartedly to be recommended. The Lady is a consummate artist of song, most frequently labeled a jazz singer, but the musical journey to be had between the songs "The Nearness of You" and "Fiddle and the Drum" provides glimpses of a songstress who is comfortable with and capable of a little easy listening and sometimes some pop music, alongside the slick time signatures found specifically in the jazz genre. Those hints at other styles are a pleasant side-trip from Hall's more regularly presented creations, but they only happen on the first of the two albums, It's About Time, allowing the listener to experience the evolution that took place as she discovered (or defined) who she is as an artist and what she wants to say with her sweet, smooth, and oh-so-sophisticated voice.

BWW CD Review: The La Tanya Hall Albums Chart The Evolution Of An Artist A decade separates the albums IT'S ABOUT TIME and SAY YES and the difference is discernible in the youthful exuberance of the former and the wizened experience of the latter. The younger album is a scatter shot of musical flavors, while the seasoned CD has a definite tone set by the artistic vision of a singer with ten years at the microphone. A generous freshman outing with nearly an hour of music, It's About Time is a collection of songs, every one recognizable as a classic, beautifully arranged to accommodate an orchestra of strings, horns, and percussion, all providing sweeping, luscious music that makes the heart soar with the richness of colors and layers. One suspects the variety bestowed on the listener with the album was a savvy calculation from an artist intent on announcing herself; if that was the intention, it was a move well made because it renders Hall irresistible, if a bit surprising, at every turn. The opulence of opener "The Nearness of You" segues into bossa nova styled Porgy and Bess, and by the third number La Tanya is knee-deep in an urgent, driving jazz arrangement of a Cole Porter classic. And that's just the beginning! For twelve fantastic, fluctuating tracks, Ms. Hall serves swing, big band, blues, Latin and a "Lazy Afternoon" that will haunt your dreams - each and every cut arranged and conducted by Angelo DiPippo with reverential care for the singer and the songs. It must have been an exciting time when the album was released, for Ms. Hall and for jazz devotees, to have a freshman outing prove so promising.

So, flash forward a decade and Ms. Hall's continual bookings for live performances in famed jazz venues and concert halls must have left no time for the recording studios, but lots of chances to conceptualize a chic and sexy cd of legitimate jazz music. From start to finish Say Yes presents an air of unshakable confidence from Ms. Hall. On empowered, emboldened display are talent, musical vocabulary, and emotional range with crystal clear intentions. Some singers can bring all the feelings to the lyrics they sing, but this singer takes all those emotions and channels them into every vocalise throughout the (hour long) album but especially on "Because I Told You So." Listeners, prepare to be hypnotized. No grand orchestra on Say Yes, Ms. Hall takes a laid-back approach to songs by Thelonious Monk and Clare Fischer, Raymond Hubble and Oscar Hammerstein, allowing the support to come from four splendid musicians in the person of Andy Milne on piano, bassist John Hebert, Clarence Penn playing drums and Michael Leonhart and his trumpet joining in for additional flair and fun. With bold and original takes on "Whisper Not" and "Ev'ry Time We Say Goodbye" (hello, Pablo Neruda!) La Tanya Hall is like an enticing but elusive guest at your cocktail party - fascinating, interesting, and leaning against the wall as every other guest comes to her, spellbound by sheer star power. How else could she, so audaciously, devise to close out this collection of jazz recordings with a brazenly haunting recording of a Joni Mitchell song, destined to be played over and over?

Because she's La Tanya Hall, and because she can.

It's About Time is a 2009 release on the Bridge Records label.

Say Yes is a 2019 release on the Blue Canoe Records label.

Both CDs are available on streaming platforms and at the La Tanya Hall WEBSITE

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