Nina Simone, Abbey Lincoln, and Joni Mitchell: three brilliant singer-songwriters, each original, compelling, and unflinching in pursuing her vision for music and for a life in music. The next set of concerts in the Asper Jazz Performances celebrates the music of these three gifted women. Fittingly, it is headlined by three current heavy hitters: pianist Lynne Arriale, vocalist Carla Cook, and saxophonist/vocalist Grace Kelly.
Lynne Arriale hit the jazz scene in the early 90s and has earned a stellar reputation as pianist and composer. Winner of the Great American Jazz Piano Competition, she has performed around the world, and collaborated with jazz luminaries like Randy Brecker, Benny Golson, Marian McPartland, Roy Hargrove, and Buster Williams. Critics and audiences are drawn to her ability to connect with her listeners and tell a story musically. JazzTimes praises her “emotional authenticity,” and Jazz Police remarks on her ability to create complexity “not by multiple layers of notes, but by multiple layers of emotion.” Arriale has recorded over a dozen albums as a leader, including Nuance (2008), Convergence (2010), and Solo (2011).
When Carla Cook sings, you can hear traces of many influences—gospel, Motown, blues, rock, classical, country, jazz. All of them come together in her imaginative and original jazz styling, and her eclectic repertoire. She has brought tunes like Simon and Garfunkel’s “Scarborough Fair” and Neil Young’s “Heart of Gold” into the jazz canon, exploring them with her signature emotional intensity and sure-footed scatting. Cook has three recordings as a leader: It’s All About Love (1999), nominated for a Grammy for Best Jazz Vocal Performance; Dem Bones (2001), a tribute to the trombone players she’d worked with; and Simply Natural (2002).
Saxophonist and singer Grace Kelly is the youngest of the three, but began to create a stir in the jazz world when she released her first album as a 12-year-old. While she was still in her teens, she recorded GRACEfulLEE with her mentor and champion Lee Konitz, and at 18, she recorded and headlined with another saxophone legend, Phil Woods, then 80. When Woods was asked how she sounded, he said, “I gave her my hat! That is how good she sounded! Hooray for the future of jazz and the alto sax!” Now in her early twenties, Kelly has nine recordings to her credit, and half a dozen of DownBeat’s Rising Star Awards for her saxophone playing. She performs far above her years, but brings a youthful energy to the stage.
These three powerful musicians are perfectly positioned to embody the muscle and musical depth of the three masters whose music they’ll share. Backed by Evan Gregor on bass and Ross Pederson on drums, they’ll heat up the Berney Theatre stage on November 7 and 8 with their wit, musicality, and sensitivity. You’ll walk away with a new appreciation for classics by Nina Simone, Abbey Lincoln, and Joni Mitchell, as well as a few less familiar tunes to add to your playlist. Don’t miss it!