If there is one musical genre that refuses to play by the rules, it’s jazz. From Louis Armstrong rewriting what the humble trumpet is capable of, to Charlie Parker inventing a new form of music in be-bop, right through the civil rights era where the outpouring of emotion ran high through the music of John Coltrane and Charles Mingus up to modern artists like Kamasi Washington, who continue to keep jazz current and vital; jazz has never ‘towed the line’.
Vocal jazz is very similar, the voice is used as an instrument and when a singer reaches a certain level in his or her accomplishments, they more often than not take on the standards.
Dublin-based singer Graham J has decided to also take this step and the result is a twelve-track album where he tackles songs made famous by such revered singers as Joni Mitchell, Dusty Springfield, Julie London, Frank Sinatra and Ella Fitzgerald among others and he holds his own fantastically.
It’s impossible not to sing along to songs such as ‘Fly Me To The Moon’ and ‘The Look of Love’ without remembering the classic originals and immediately you make a comparison to those older recordings, but the point of recording these songs is not only to bring them to a new audience but also to pay homage to a musical education that these songs represent. At times the songs feel a little too modern, a bit electronic but sadly we can’t all have Duke Ellington’s big band behind us when we sing but the songs work well and also emphasises not just the range that Graham J has but also show his control in weaving his way around these classic melodies.
Sure there are some who will scoff at the thought of ‘yet another’ cover version of a classic but the simple truth is, singers want to sing and at the heart of this album is a singer passionate about the instrument of the human voice.
Definitely worth a listen.