Jackie teams with GRAMMY Award winner John Clayton to deliver a tour de force through a myriad of jazz idioms — from blues & gospel flavored jazz gems, to luscious love songs, a soaring Spanish ballad, a Gershwin classic, pulsating samba rhythms — and culminates with the title track: a stunning duet with 3-time GRAMMY nominee Gerald Clayton.
"Listen Here" is at once both a testimony and a tribute — a testimony to this artist's love of exploration, and a tribute to celebrate some of her favorite lyricists. It features two originals (one penned by GRAMMY Award winners Marilyn and Alan Bergman) and is Jackie's best recording yet.
with John Clayton & Friends
"Those who hear her are the fortunate ones," writes Howard Mandel - president, Jazz Journalists Association, "an impeccable jazz singer, praised by critics and fans internationally." Jackie Ryan is "the real deal," as noted jazz critic Don Heckman puts it, "a world class talent," thrilling audiences across the globe with her powerful 3 1/2 octave range and her magnetic stage presence - and amassing, along the way, an impressive array of records (three back-to-back #1 CDs on JazzWeek's nationwide chart) and glowing reviews: "Extravagantly gifted," writes Andrew Gilbert (Boston Globe, JAZZTIMES), "with astonishing range - both emotionally and stylistically."
"JACKIE RYAN JOINED THE UPPER ECHELON OF CONTEMPORARY JAZZ VOCALISTS A HALF-DOZEN YEARS AGO...EVINCING AN EFFORTLESSNESS AKIN TO ELLA'S OR SARAH'S...NOW, WITH THE FLAWLESS 'LISTEN HERE', RYAN AGAIN SURPASSES HERSELF. AS ALWAYS, HER TONE, PHRASING AND INTERPRETIVE SMARTS ARE IMPECCABLE AND HER RANGE - SUBLIME, but there is a fresh earthiness evident across these 14 tracks, an even richer naturalness...traveling from the brass-lined fervor of her opening 'Comin' Home Baby' and the testifying strut of 'Accentuate the Positive' to the warm breeziness of 'Anytime, Any Day, Anywhere' and the hushed beauty of the Dave Frishberg title track. Along the way, she delivers an enchanted reading of Abbey Lincoln's 'Throw It Away,' revisits the Mexican half of her heritage with the heartrending 'La Puerta,' and rivals the majesty of Nina Simone on a towering 'I Loves You, Porgy.' "
"AN ASTONISHING CONTRALTO VOICE...THE ALBUM IS STRONG AND WELL CONCEIVED, DISPLAYING RYAN'S GREAT ABILITY TO TACKLE VARIED MATERIAL WHILE MAINTAINING A SINGULAR AND INDIVIDUAL APPROACH. EVERY LYRIC RYAN SINGS IS DELIVERED WITH THE DEEPEST CONVICTION AND ABSOLUTE CONFIDENCE... Abbey Lincoln's ballad 'Throw It Away' is a highlight. 'Anytime, Any Day, Anywhere' and 'How Little We Know,' both easy swingers, with Gerald Clayton's introspective playing and ringing voicings, are especially gorgeous."
"A TOUR DE FORCE OF TALENT AND TASTE... SUPERB ORIGINAL SELECTIONS, THE OVERALL EFFORT SOARS. Listen Here delivers abundant aural riches and demonstrates Ryan's GORGEOUS LYRIC APPROACH AND MILE-DEEP EMOTIONAL DEPTH. HER INTONATION AND RHYTHMIC SENSE ARE UNCANNY... A TRULY GIFTED VOCAL TALENT. With Listen Here, vocalist Jackie Ryan offers a diverse and delectable array of Great American Songbook, jazz classics, and superb original selections. Supported by Grammy Award-winning bassist John Clayton and most able friends (including Clayton's son, pianist Gerald, a three-time Grammy nominee), the overall effort soars."
"Ryan's voice - full, highly resonant and eminently inviting - is also one of subtle shadings. Her colorings run from the bluest blue to the sultriest scarlet. A funk version of the pop-jazz hit "Comin' Home Baby" and the straight-ahead "Gypsy in My Soul" make the initial up-tempo statements. Ryan's wheelhouse doors open wide on "Throw It Away." crescendo, decrescendo and lyric interplay dominate this highlight. The ensuing ballad selections "I Love You, Porgy," "A Time for Love" and "Before We Fall in Love" demonstrate Ryan's gorgeous lyric approach and mile-deep emotional depth. And, not to be constrained, she does it in Spanish, too (with guitarist Graham Dechter, on "La Puerta")."
"The gospel-ized version of "Accentuate the Positive" demonstrates that Ryan can sing hand-on-hip and finger-wag powerful. There's no faux soul in this rendition. She seals the deal with "No One Ever Tells You." Rickey Woodard's tenor sax funks up both selections. Gilbert Castellano offers white-hot trumpet solos when he stretches out. PIANIST GERALD CLAYTON'S IMPECCABLE TASTE, TOUCH AND METICULOUS ACCOMPANIMENT DOVETAIL BEAUTIFULLY WITH RYAN'S VOCAL INSTRUMENT. THE RESULT IS, INDEED, KEYBOARD/VOCAL UNITY. Abundant aural riches - by way of a truly gifted vocal talent."
"RYAN IS TOP DRAWER AND JAZZILY PERFECTIONISTIC TO A 'T', POLISHED AND VIBRANT, ABLE TO COMBINE SMOOTH DELIVERY WITH ALMOST UNNERVING CONFIDENCE. When Chris Loudon of JazzTimes notes she's 'one of the outstanding jazz vocalists of her generation and quite possibly of all time', the praise at first seems excessive...but it's not, not at all. JACKIE RYAN IS ONE OF THE GREATS, NO TWO WAYS ABOUT IT. THE EXCEPTIONAL WILL ALWAYS STAND OUT."
"An eclectic collection of tunes, at turns bluesy, then gospel, then straight-ahead jazz, this one is a showcase for Jackie Ryan's many talents. And they're all top-notch. Ms. Ryan's career started in the rhythm and blues genres, and she's clearly at home there in this offering. The opening lines to 'Accentuate The Positive' ring with authority, and it's one of my favorites from this disc. MS. RYAN GETS IT. SHE'S BLESSED WITH A POWERFUL VOICE AND A UNIQUE STYLE THAT DEFIES COMPARISONS TO ANY OTHER SINGER. In a varied collection such as this, one is bound to have favorites, but they're all representative of a woman who's at the top of her game. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.
Favorites - 'The Gypsy In My Soul,' 'Accentuate The Positive,' 'How Little We Know.'
with John Clayton & Friends
"Those who hear her are the fortunate ones," writes Howard Mandel - president, Jazz Journalists Association, "an impeccable jazz singer, praised by critics and fans internationally." Jackie Ryan is "the real deal," as noted jazz critic Don Heckman puts it, "a world class talent," thrilling audiences across the globe with her powerful 3 1/2 octave range and her magnetic stage presence - and amassing, along the way, an impressive array of records (two back-to-back #1 CDs on JazzWeek's nationwide chart) and glowing reviews: "Extravagantly gifted," writes Andrew Gilbert (Boston Globe, JAZZTIMES), "with astonishing range - both emotionally and stylistically."
Known as "a musician's singer," Jackie regularly attracts top flight talent to her recordings. Her last outing - a double CD, DOOZY - featured Cyrus Chestnut, Eric Alexander, Jeremy Pelt, Carl Allen, Ray Drummond and Romero Lumbambo, garnered universal praise (4-Stars from both DOWNBEAT and AMG), and held the #1 position nationwide on JazzWeek's industry-standard chart for a record-breaking 7 solid weeks. Her previous CD, featuring Red Holloway, Tamir Hendelman, and Jeff Hamilton among others, also received 4 stars from AMG and DOWNBEAT, and cemented Jackie's position as: "One of the outstanding jazz vocalists of her generation and, quite possibly, of all time," as JAZZTIMES stated. In addition, Ms. Ryan has recorded and/or performed with jazz greats: Toots Thielemans, Clark Terry, Terry Gibbs, Buddy DeFranco, Ernie Watts, Scott Hamilton, Amina Figarova, Mike Wofford, Jon Mayer, Larry Vuckovich, Barry Harris, Bill Cunliffe, Shelly Berg, Benny Green, Emil Richards, and Jon Hendricks.
The extraordinary talents lending their gifts to this recording are no exception - foremost: GRAMMY-Award winning John Clayton who produced and arranged this CD for Jackie. Clayton has a gift for arranging for singers (Diana Krall, Dee Dee Bridgewater, Natalie Cole, George Benson, Gladys Knight, and Whitney Houston, among others), and this pairing with Jackie for John was a match made in musical heaven. "I first paid attention to Jackie when I heard her stunning recordings with The Jeff Hamilton Trio," John says. "Her version of 'BESAME MUCHO' stopped me in my tracks. Obviously, every vocalist's sound is different - different people, different body sizes - but it's what the vocalist DOES with their voice that draws me in. The warmth of Jackie's sound immediately got to me. Add to that the way she uses her instrument and I was sold." For these special recordings, John called on both members of the big band he co-leads - the GRAMMY-nominated Clayton-Hamilton Jazz Orchestra, and on members of the Clayton Brothers Quintet (nominated for two GRAMMY Awards) - they are: the extraordinarily talented pianist Gerald Clayton, fiery percussionist Obed Calvaire, soulful saxmaster Rickey Woodard, trumpet virtuoso Gilbert Castellanos, and gifted guitarist Graham Dechter. John also lent his prodigious talents as a bassist to this CD, digging out a bold, rock-solid groove when needed, or weaving a sensitive gentle bow - as on "A Time For Love" that literally melts into Ms. Ryan's sultry voice, dissolving into one harmonious caress.
Her rousing rendition of "The Gypsy In My Soul" perfectly reflects Jackie's spirited exploratory nature. Surely there must be a gypsy in her soul - as evidenced not only by the far-reaching range of musical territory she covers in this heartfelt CD, but also by her lifelong love of jazz in all its manifold permutations. Jackie has always been ready to explore jazz's variegated musical landscape - and, as you "Listen Here," you will be joining her on an adventurous journey across a most inviting, expansive terrain - from the down home bluesiness of "Comin' Home Baby" and the gospel-tinged "Accentuate The Positive," to the rarified operatic realms of an American classic, "I Loves You Porgy," the Spanish laminations of "La Puerta" and the pulsating samba rhythms of "To The Ends Of The Earth."
This ability to explore, to be drawn to musical genres both culturally outside of jazz's mainstream, as well as to those conventional touchstones within its borders, is the mark of a true jazz mind. Not content to merely plumb the depths of the American Songbook, the safety of well-worn standards, Jackie will often overlook the ordinary, and seek out and delve into the extraordinary, the a-typical, the exotic. [Give a close listen to her rendition of "Sari" with Amina Figarova (sung in Sranan Tongo), or to her "Caminhos Cruzados" duet with Romero Lubambo sung in spot-on Portuguese, both on previous CDs].
"One of the great things about being a jazz singer," says Jackie, "is to be able to go to any country, anywhere in the world, and to sing with musicians there who know jazz - our international language - and to experience their take on jazz through their culture. People I meet in other countries may have different priorities about life. And in experiencing their priorities, you learn more about yourself, you learn what truly matters."
It is this willingness to reach across cultural boundaries, this desire to reach into the hearts of her diverse audiences, coupled with her generous spirit and captivating stage presence, that has made her a sought after artist, filling premier venues both here and abroad. With concert tours throughout Asia, Australia, and Europe (such as eight years at London's famed Ronnie Scott's Club) - and with festivals at home such as Telluride, Monterey, and the Lionel Hampton Jazz Festival, and packed concerts at New York's Birdland, Lincoln Center's Dizzy's Club Coca-Cola, Florida's Broward Center, and the San Francisco Bay Area's Yoshi's - Jackie has garnered a growing and well-earned world-wide recognition.
Ms. Ryan has been profiled as the featured artist for NPR, Voice of America, PRIMETIME A&E and CNN TV en Español (which devoted an entire segment to her). But it is not by accident that her cross-cultural appeal "bridges the gap between both geography and generations," as BILLBOARD so aptly put it. Part Irish, part Mexican, she was born into it - and grew up listening to a unique blend of voices around her family's small home. Her father was of Irish descent, born in San Francisco's Butchertown, working night shifts and educating himself in Greek and Latin and singing classical pieces around the house in his trained baritone - Brahms, Shubert, Tschaikovsky. Her mother (who sang operettas at the Teatro Degollado in Guadalajara) was Mexican and crooned Spanish folk songs to her as a child. "I always remember those romantic album covers she had with the matadors and Spanish ladies in brilliant colors; and the melodies I heard, the songs I heard, just filled me up. So that's what I kept inside of me." Tragically, Jackie lost her mother at the age of 15 and, in memory, always includes a Spanish song in each of her CDs - in this case, the passionate "La Puerta."
Ms. Ryan's natural affinity for languages extends deeply into the language of jazz and deeply into its intricate structures. She possesses a keen ear for jazz phrasing and its internal rhymes - and, as a lyricist herself, has composed note-for-note vocalese to the scorching sax solos of Benny Carter's "DOOZY" and Joe Henderson's "The Kicker." Her love of a great lyric is reflected in her choices for this CD - a collection celebrating some of her favorite lyricists. From lesser recorded jazz gems such as Carolyn Leigh's wry lyrics unraveling the mysteries of attraction in "How Little We Know," to Paul Webster's wistful reflections in "A Time For Love." From Carroll Coates' cautionary tale of love and loss in "No One Ever Tells You," to Abbey Lincoln's joyous ode to love and life in "Throw It Away."
"Dear wonderful Abbey Lincoln was a true original, one of my heroines. I've been a fan of her ever since I saw her as an actress in 'Nothing But A Man.' She had a freedom of expression - a voice for social activism she shared with her husband, Max Roach - their 'We Insist/Freedom Jazz Suite' was a masterpiece," Jackie says. "This freedom of expression is what drew me to jazz - having a voice and something to say, to give. Lyrics are very important to me when choosing a song. They need to be honest; they need to be clever; they need to speak to me in some way. A great lyricist knows how to work their words into a melody in a very artistic way. Like a dance between the writer of the lyric and the writer of the melody, the words need to weave themselves into the fabric of the melody in such a way that it touches you. A word placed in just the right spot in the melody will stand out and do that."
In this collection, Jackie offers us a bounty of lyrical choices, culminating with the title track, "Listen Here," a luscious ballad by David Frishberg, tailor-made for Jackie's tender voice to deliver its message of spiritual encouragement (and recorded mesmerizingly as a duet with Gerald Clayton). In addition, this generous collection features two originals: the first vocal recording of be-bop pianist Jon Mayer's "Rip Van Winkle," with rousing lyrics by Mark Winkler (note the wake-up call of sassy horns that merge into Jackie's vocals at the song's end, melding into one urgent brassy refrain). And the first recording of John Clayton's hauntingly beautiful "Before We Fall In Love" with lyrics by Marilyn and Alan Bergman (note the spacious arrangement that allows room for Jackie's lush vocals to capture all the tremulous trepidation of one about to give up their heart).
Whether lingering over the seductive lyrics of "Anytime, Any Day, Anywhere," or liberating life's passions in "Throw It Away," whether capturing the heartbreak of a lover shut out forever as the door closes on romance in "La Puerta," or pursuing her paramour's heart, "To The Ends Of The Earth" - Jackie, and these recordings, will live in your heart. So give a "Listen Here," and you will find, as others have, an extraordinarily versatile artist, now at the top of her game - as she explores this broad, lyrical terrain - accompanied, stride by stride, by a host of the jazz world's finest musicians. They invite you to join them - and maybe put a little gypsy in your soul!
"JACKIE RYAN ISN'T SIMPLY A SINGER; SHE'S A FORCE OF NATURE. HER VOICE POSSESSES A WEIGHTY POWER, YET SOARS WITH GRACE AND EASE. HER ABILITY TO TRANSMUTE INTO DIFFERENT FORMS, AS DICTATED BY THE SONG LYRICS AND STYLE, MAKES HER ONE IN A MILLION. She can proselytize with the best of them ('Accentuate The Positive'), inhabit a Billie Holiday-like space ("Anytime, Any Day, Anywhere'), commune with the blues ('No One Ever Tells You'), deliver brilliantly emotional performances ('Throw It Away,' 'A Time For Love') and carry directness in her words ('Listen Here'). HER SENSE OF PASSION FOR THIS MUSIC COMES THROUGH AT EVERY TURN AND HER SKILLS AS AN INTERPRETER ARE SECOND TO NONE. 'LISTEN HERE' MAKES AN IMPRESSION IN A BIG WAY AND FURTHERS THE ALREADY STERLING REPUTATION OF ONE OF THE CURRENT VOCAL TREASURES IN THE WORLD OF JAZZ."
"JACKIE RYAN HAS TAKEN ANOTHER STEP UP INTO THE UPPER ECHELONS OF JAZZ. IT WILL BE A SURPRISE AND A GLARING OMISSION IF THIS ALBUM ISN'T NOMINATED FOR A GRAMMY NEXT YEAR. This is a CD that should be listened to over and over again. Because it will take repeated plays to appreciate all the nuances and surprises and moments of sheer beauty that Ryan packs into this diverse collection of songs. Blessed with a warm, lush alto, Ryan comes out rockin' with a head bobbing rendition of the bluesy 'Comin' Home, Baby,' featuring an inventive arrangement by John Clayton (who arranged the phenomenal rendition of 'The Star Spangled Banner' that Whitney Houston sang at the 1990 Super Bowl). From there she works through an intelligently thought out selection of songs, teaming up with top young jazz musicians from two Grammy nominated bands."
—Paul Liberatore, Senior Jazz Critic, Marin Independent Journal
"WITH CHOPS THAT ARE EVER DEEPENING AND A REACH THAT IS EVER EXPANDING, RYAN TEAMS WITH JOHN CLAYTON AND COOKS UP ONE OF THE MOST MAJOR LABEL SOUNDING INDY RELEASES OF ALL TIME. There's so much passion in the delivery and execution that you could bottle and sell the run off. THIS IS A JAZZ VOCAL DATE THAT DESERVES TO TAKE ITS PLACE IN LINE WITH ANY AND ALL OF THE CLASSICS. HOT STUFF THROUGHOUT!"
**** 4 STARS "AN 'A' LIST SINGER WITH AN 'A' LIST BAND. A SUPERIOR RECORDING ACROSS THE BOARD. In the tightly clustered pack of female vocalists, Jackie Ryan sets herself apart with flair, finesse and originality. When vocals as top flight as Ryan's are paired up with what may be essentially one of the best working bands in jazz - the end results will be spot on."
"JACKIE RYAN DELIVERS YET ANOTHER STUNNING WORK OF EXCELLENCE... from jazz standards, to samba, to gospel, to a Spanish love song... tunes by Johnny Mercer, George Gershwin, Abbey Lincoln and Dave Frishberg we've heard - but not in the way Clayton arranged them - nor in the way Jackie Ryan sings them. Singer Jackie Ryan always seem to push the quality of her work with each new project, and her latest, Listen Here, is no exception. AN EXCEPTIONAL RECORDING FROM RYAN THAT SHOULD NOT BE MISSED, IT SHOULD BE IN YOUR COLLECTION. "