Jackie Ryan is a wonderful singer with a huge range and repertoire, which she demonstrates wonderfully on "Listen Here" (Open Art 2013). Singing is in her blood after all -- her Mexican mother sang operettas professionally and her Irish father was a classical tenor who sang in multiple languages. She herself has sung around the world at places like Ronnie Scott's, Birdland, and Jazz at Lincoln Center. As she demonstrates on this CD, her styles include the blues, gospel, latin, ballads, show tunes and swing, and her control on each is immaculate whether she is singing loud and brassy or soft and silky.
Ryan attracts only the best players for her bands. The first CD listed in her discography is from 2000, and there have been seven in all. Her last two CDs --- Doozy (Open Art Records 2009) and "You and The Night and the Music (Open Art 2007) --- have featured bands that include a who's who of great contemporary jazz musicians -- Jeremy Pelt, Cyrus Chesnut, Red Holloway, Tamir Hendelman, Christophe Luty, Jeff Hamilton, Larry Koonse, Carl Allen, Ray Drummond, Neal Smith, Dezron Douglas, Eric Alexander, Romero Lubambo.
For "Listen Here" she has another star-studded cast -- John Clayton on bass, Gerald Clayton on piano, Gilbert Castellanos on trumpet, Graham Dechter on guitar, Obed Calvaire on drums, and Rickey Woodard on sax. The band ably supports her clean clear voice. When it swings, it swings hard, with plenty of feeling and plenty of joy. Her interpretations are spot on with the lyrics and stories, her voice full, highly resonant and eminently inviting. She can be blues, she can be sultry, but she is always keenly aware of her intonations and the content. Similarly the band knows when to step up, when to lay back, and maintains great balance with Ryan.
Some highlights. "Comin Home Baby" opens the set with the upbeat play of Castellanos' trumpet, followed by the bluesy force of Ryan's voice. As she lays into this blues with great spirit she is ably supported by the trumpet and drums driving the beat with her, and by a beautiful piano interlude by Gerald Clayton, who is masterful over he course of the entire program. The switch to "The Gypsy in My Soul" highlights the smooth and silky tone of Ryan's voice and her control over her emotions, which here are infectiously happy. "Throw it All Away" is emotionally powerful story telling, a mellow and evocative song that is sung by a clearly thoughtful Ryan. "Accentuate the Positive" is a mind blower, starting with a great delivery of the introduction that sets the stage for a gospel tinged blues. The organ and wailing sax contribute marvelous accents that heighten the songs appeal. I Loves You Porgy" cannot get a whole lot better than this, a beautifully controlled reading backed by a restrained band with some lovely piano play.
And so it goes -- one wonderfully sung tune after another -- another killer blues "No One Ever Tells You", a latin "La Puerta", very classic takes on "How Little We Know" and "Anytime, Any Day, Anywhere", and a knockout caressed "A Time for Love."
Jackie Ryan is a singing force to be reckoned with, a woman whose feel for the music, whether it be the blues or a ballad, latin or english, brings loveliness to anything she touches. Her clear clean voice is never breathy and her interpretations spot on. Highly recommended, as are her two previous recordings.