Ranee Lee presents “Deep Song: A Tribute to Billie Holiday” via remastered CD

Ranee Lee is a true Renaissance woman. In addition to a career as a jazz singer that has taken her to stages in front of her fans around the globe, Lee is also a songwriter, award-winning actress, children’s book author, and jazz educator. Despite that resume, Lee actually got her start as a dancer. In an interview with Peter Kerr of The Montrealer, she said, “I was dancing with an Afro-Cuban touring dance troupe. We were in a small town in Ontario, and had to extend the length of our performance to fill the time allotted for the show. I was chosen to sing some songs with the band to fill that time, and the audience loved it!”
In the ’60’s Lee worked as a singer in Toronto while also taking up the drums and saxophone to make herself more marketable. She eventually moved to Montreal and got her on-stage big-break portraying Billie Holiday in Lady Day at Emerson’s Bar and Grill. Lee won a Dora Mavo Moore Award for her portrayal of the jazz legend, and thus the recording of Deep Song soon followed; “the mystique that is Billie Holiday is akin to the free spirit of a summer breeze blowing in many directions, sometimes disturbing, often refreshing, always beguiling. 

The allure of her music washes over you and touches your soul,” reflects Lee in a news release.
Deep Song is Ranee Lee’s tour de force-bringing the singer to the attention of jazz fans and concert producers worldwide for the first time. Originally released in 1989, the album has been beautifully re-mastered, and is now re-issued with two bonus tracks, “Fine and Mellow” and “Ill Wind”. Lee is celebrating 40 years in Montreal, where she has become one of Canada’s most popular jazz vocalists.
An extraordinary and captivating performer whether on the stage or on the bandstand, Lee’s sensuous melodic interpretations are complemented by her notable musician friends, including: pianist Oliver Jones, guitarist Richard Ring, drummer Archie Alleyne, and saxophonist/flautist Richard Beaudet. In addition, Lee is joined by Milt Hinton, Billie Holiday’s own bassist. Hinton writes in the liner notes, “ardent fans of Billie and listeners of all generations will enjoy the unique talent of Ranee Lee on Deep Song. It is a radiant listening experience.” The album confirms Ranee Lee as truly among the elite in jazz today.
Deep Song is comprised of jazz standards made famous by Lady Day, such as: “Easy Living” and “Strange Fruit”, (the latter, a Holiday signature protest song against racism), as well as songs Holiday had a hand in writing and have since become classics, including: “God Bless the Child”, “Don’t Explain”, and “Fine and Mellow”. The album opens with Buddy Johnson’s melancholy “I Wonder Where Our Love Has Gone” before transitioning to the jaunty step of “When a Woman Loves a Man” and continuing to cover the breadth of Holiday’s landmark career. Throughout, the power and sensuality of Ranee Lee’s perfectly articulated melody lines deftly honor her predecessor.
Preserving Lady Day’s essence while delivering an experience unique to Lee, All Music Guide’s Scott Yanow said of Deep Song that, “Lee manages to recapture Holiday’s spirit without resorting to mimicry. This tasteful effort has among its highlights ‘When a Woman Loves a Man,’ ‘Crazy He Calls Me,’ ‘Easy Living,’ and ‘Them There Eyes.’ Recommended.” Notable Washington City Paper writer Joel E. Siegel, who also won a shared 1993 GRAMMY® Award for “Best Album Notes” on a Billie Holiday box set, has an ear for Lee’s sound-“Brooklyn-born, Montréal based Ranee Lee retains traditional virtues that most contemporary, jazz-oriented singers, have abandoned: professionalism, humor, discipline, unpretentiousness.”
In addition to the accolades of Deep Song, Lee has made strides in all of her endeavors in the subsequent decades. She wrote, produced, and performed in Dark Divas, a musical and double CD release that celebrates several of the most prominent black female singers of the century, such as Ella Fitzgerald, Dinah Washington, and Sarah Vaughan; has acted alongside Billy Dee Williams in “Giant Steps”; hosted the television show “The Performers” on BET in the U.S. and BRAVO in Canada; and wrote and illustrated the children’s book Nana What Do You Say? Inspired by her song of the same name off of the 1994 album, I Thought About You. That album was also the first to be nominated for a Juno Award in the Best Mainstream Jazz Category.
In recognition of her unparalleled musical talent, Lee won the prestigious Juno Award forBest Jazz Vocal Album of the Year, for 2010’s Lives Upstairs, and continues to accumulate well-revered awards and declarations. She was inducted into The Order of Canada, the country’s highest civilian honor, and was given the ACTRA Award of Excellence for Lifetime Achievement. In 2010, Lee received a MECCA nomination for her performance in the Black Theatre Workshop production of “Swan Song for Maria.”
As an educator, Lee has been on the faculty of The Schulich School of Music of McGill University for nearly 40 years, and has also contributed her expertise and talents at The University of Laval in Quebec City for nearly a decade. McGill honored Lee’s contribution to the development of their jazz program with a prestigious award of appreciation in 2007; she also won the International Association of Jazz Education award in 2004.
Ranee Lee has released 10 albums on Justin Time Records, and throughout her career has performed alongside the likes of: Clark Terry, Terry Clarke, Bill Mayes, Herbie Ellis, and Red Mitchell. Lee and her quartet will be performing Deep Song: A Tribute to Billie Holiday at festivals and various venues beginning in mid June.

Vocalist Carol Welsman finds inspiration from world travels for album “Journey”

On her 10th recording, vocalist Carol Welsman invites her followers to tag along on a spirited yet intimate adventure. The vocalist explores 14 classic songs on Journey (Justin Time Records), all inspired by her lifelong love of traveling.
While jaunting from city to city can be somewhat draining for most people, Welsman enjoys the same sense of happy wanderlust that she had the first time she flew to Boston from her hometown of Toronto to attend the Berklee College of Music as a piano performance major. Since then, she has jazzed thousands of fans everywhere from Tokyo and New York to Italy and Brazil; lived for years in France, Italy and Los Angeles; and continues to be an iconic figure in her home country of Canada, where she has received five Juno nominations over the course of her 15-year recording career.
While her rich discography includes numerous acclaimed recordings showcasing her powerful skills as a songwriter, Journey follows in the tradition of Welsman’s previous thematic excursions, including Swing Ladies Swing! A Tribute to Singers of the Swing Era (1999), What’cha Got Cookin’, a set of jazzed up country standards produced by Pierre and Mary Cossette (2005), the Japan-released Benny Goodman tribute Memories of You (2008) and Welsman’s the tour de force I Like Men, Reflections of Miss Peggy Lee, which earned the singer her fifth Juno nod for Best Jazz Vocal Album of the Year in Canada and was named one of USA Today’s Top 5 albums of the year (alongside Barbra Streisand and Mark Knopfler) and #3 album of the year in Jazz Times.
Produced by Welsman’s longtime band members, guitarist Pierre Coté and drummer/percussionist Jimmy Branly, Journey also features Marc Rogers on bass and a guest spot by trumpeter Ron Di Lauroon “You Came a Long Way from St. Louis.”  Though most songs are sung in her native English, she draws on her fluency in French for “Volons Vers La Lune” (an exuberant, coolly swinging adaptation of “Fly Me to the Moon”) and the hauntingly eloquent “Si J’étais Un Homme,” and sings Portuguese throughout the first part of a spirited romp through Jobim’s “Samba De Avião.”

Beyond the compelling song list and Welsman’s unique interpretations, another fascinating element of this Journey is the fact that every tune was recorded in one or two takes, with the band recording 16 tracks in four days. Welsman prepared for the sessions with pre-production demos and, embodying the true essence of jazz, was open to changing course and improvising when the spirit of the song led the band in a different direction during the rehearsal session before recording. Her idea to drop the drums from “Route 66,” for instance, happened during the first run through the song in the recording studio.

“That’s the great thing about jazz, being open to making last-minute changes to make every song and arrangement flow just right,” says Welsman in a news release. “I wanted to play with the intimacy of the music, which means there could be a sudden change of attitude, as in ‘Never Make Your Move too Soon,’ which started out as a straight blues but seemed too forced that way. The result was that we were able to have a nice palette of colors with which to present this special array of songs. One of the key things was vibe. I didn’t want to be too over the top, but more on the quiet side so that you could put it on during dinner and then later it would lend itself to more detailed listening. Because we were drawing from so many sources and influences, I was amazed at the end that everything had an organic feel and was totally cohesive. All the themes connected as if we had somehow planned it that way. Dropping an instrument here and there definitely was part of the balanced approach we took.”

Canadian jazz vocalist Alex Pangman makes U.S. debut with “33” on July 12

Canadian jazz vocalist Alex Pangman will make her Justin Time Records debut in the United States with a new disc, appropriately titled, 33, on July 12, 2011. 
The vocalist explains the meaning behind the title in a recent news release: “as a longtime devotee of music from the classic genre, I find something of a kinship with the music that buoyed nations through the ‘dirty thirties.’ The initial concept of this record was to honor that kind of spirit with songs popular in 1933; indeed the bulk of the material (save for one self-penned number) are songs that were popular in the year 1933 – recorded while I was 33.”
 Along with her longtime band the Alleycats and featuring guest vocalists Ron Sexsmith and Denzal Sinclaire – the music is presented with all the love, fun and respect it deserves.  
A compelling talent in her own right, Pangman’s voice can be regarded as even more impressive, knowing she received a double lung transplant just a few years ago. The smoke-filled venues where Pangman often frequented finally caught up to the singer, who was battling lung disease at the time. She reluctantly took a break to recoup; her interest in singing and playing music never waning. 
A bit of background: After discovering a songbook of classics at an early age, Pangman quickly began delving deeper into the sophisticated shellac of the 20s and 30s, which eventually led to a fortuitous connection with the late guitar great Jeff Healey, who knew a rare talent when he heard it. In very short order, Healey produced her impressive 1999 debut ‘They Say’ (Sensation Records) as well as the 2001 follow-up, ‘You Can’t Stop Me From Dreaming.’  While facets of Ella Fitzgerald, Connie Boswell and Ruth Etting could be discerned in Pangman’s zesty delivery, that crisp clear voice was unequivocally her own.
After receiving a Songwriter of the Year nod from the National Jazz Awards in 2001 and a slew of other nominations shortly after, Pangman quickly became busy scheduling collaborations with everyone from Grammy-nominated trumpeter Kevin Clark and the dashing Denzal Sinclaire to pianist Tyler Yarema and even Jim Galloway’s All-Stars.