By David Nathan
Jacque Tara Washington’s talent extends beyond being a jazz vocalist. She is an actress, appearing in such films as Spike Lee’s Malcolm X. She is a playwright, putting together a one-woman show Billie’s Diary based on the life of Billie Holiday, in which she of course stars. Washington has appeared also on the legitimate theater stage in a variety of shows. A skilled composer, she contributed a couple of originals to this her second album. And she can sing!
Washington has an extraordinarily strong voice and while she takes on the mantle of blues shouter on a couple of cuts, she generally uses her powerful tool with restraint and subtlety. Listen to her tell an affecting story on “Guess Who I Saw Today”, the first half of a medley, and then move smoothly into a heart tugging “Mood Indigo”. A teasing, playful side is exposed on an up tempo, swinging “Now or Never” recalling those wonderful girl soul singers from the 1960’s. Some good muted trumpet and flute enrich this track by Corky Klinko and Al Hamme, respectively. Not stopping here, Washington unpacks her scatting skills on “It Don’t Mean a Thing (if It Ain’t Got That Swing)” and other wordless vocalizing paraphernalia on J. C. Johnson’s “Trav’lin All Alone”. With a voice as powerful as hers and her references to her faith in God in the liner notes, Gospel is remembered with the traditional “Amazing Grace” and mixed with the blues on “Living Here on Earth”. Washington steps aside for a chorus of “A Man with a Horn” allowing Doug Sertl, Al Hamme and Rich Krisica to stretch out.
Although Billie Holiday is remembered by the stark “Strange Fruit” and an ardent “All of Me”, Washington’s vocal antecedents lay more with the likes of Dinah Washington, Phyliss Hyman and Roberta Flack than Lady Day. But in the end, Washington is her own person delivering on an eye opening, ear catching, toe tapping set of tough and tender tunes. Recommended.
Richard Bourcier – (Copyright© 1969 JazzReview.com®. All Rights Reserved.)
On occasion, an almost flawless CD finds its way to my desk. “Jazz Passions” is certainly one of those exceptional arrivals.
Syracuse vocalist/actress/teacher/producer Jacque Tara Washington offers her second CD for our review and it’s a knockout. This young performer has it all; poise, presence, voice, good taste, great studio musicians and, at my risk of being labeled a chauvinist, she is stunningly beautiful.
Though not yet a household name in America, Jacque is well known and appreciated in other parts of the world. She appeared in Japan last year and has been invited to return to Tokyo for two months this summer. Some of you may have seen her appearances on Black Entertainment Television’s “Jazz Discoveries” series. She has appeared as an actress in Spike Lee’s “Malcolm X,” portrayed Billie Holiday in the stage production of “Lady Day at Emerson’s Bar and Grill” and produced the series “Voices: The Music and Politics of African American Vocalists” for National Public Radio.
The new recording offers a blend of music drawn from pop and jazz standards, but delivered in a “pure jazz” style. A rather unusual tune is the Janis Ian composition “At Seventeen” featuring fine solos by Mike Holober, Mark Copani and Rich Krisica. Another welcome tune is “A Man With a Horn,” penned in the 1940s by Eddie DeLange and Jack Jenney. The song was later adopted as a signature tune by the late trumpeter/bandleader Randy Brooks. This is the first time I’ve heard a vocal version of the composition. Very nice trumpet work by Jeff Stockholm.
In all, sixteen fine tracks provide 70 minutes of quality listening. Other songs include: Up Jumped Spring/ Mood Indigo/ Guess Who I Saw Today/ Live For Life/ Now Or Never/ All Of Me/ Strange Fruit/ It Don’t Mean a Thing/ Living Here On Earth and the beautiful “Wild Is The Wind.” Visit the singer’s website for a total listing and sound samples.
I predict that Jacque Tara Washington will eventually be as well known as some of her prime influences, Nancy Wilson, Abbey Lincoln, Roberta Flack and Phoebe Snow.