Lauren Hooker | Life of the Music

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Life of the Music

by Lauren Hooker

An ambitious and eclectic program with four gems from the American Songbook and seven strong originals by Lauren coupled with seasoned world-class instrumentalists and a voice that possesses a myriad of colors… rich, robust, and full of emotion.
Genre: Jazz: Jazz Vocals
Release Date: 

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  Song Share Time Download
1. Life of the Music, Your Music Brings Out the Poetry in Me
6:34 album only
2. If Thats What You Feel
3:24 album only
3. Love Me or Leave Me
3:42 album only
4. I Am Doing Very Well
4:13 album only
5. Song to a Seagull
6:57 album only
6. I Lied
3:58 album only
7. Spring Is Here
4:47 album only
8. Countin on the Blues
3:52 album only
9. Hey This Is Me
3:48 album only
10. Walkin on Down the Line
2:51 album only
11. Some Other Time
5:20 album only


Album Notes
LINER NOTES By Jazz Bassist/Composer Rufus Reid
If you are reading this, I know you enjoy good music. In your hands is Life of The Music which comes three years after Lauren Hooker’s initial acclaimed release. Her first recording, Right Where I Belong startled her critics in a great way. The consensus was they could not believe she had never recorded before. Her voice is mature, rich, robust, and full of emotion that only experience can bring. There is something here for everyone’s tastes. However, I am quite sure that was not Lauren’s immediate concern, but only to tell her story of her experiences. This recording is, simply, as the title suggests, a glimpse into her life through her own music and musical influences. There are four gems from the American Songbook and seven strong originals by Lauren to make up a well-balanced program for this superb recording. The listener receives a close-up view of Lauren Hooker’s broad musical scope and fine musicianship. She surrounds herself with seasoned world-class instrumentalists who make the collaboration spectacular . Multi-instrumentalist, Scott Robinson, pianist, Jim Ridl, bassist, Martin Wind and bassist/cellist, Mike Richmond, drummer, percussionist, Tim Horner, and guitarist, John Hart, embrace her like your favorite house slippers. The arrangements of each song have an interesting twist and are well executed. There are toe-tapping grooves like Love Me Or Leave Me, to the thought provoking original Hooker title tune Life of The Music, and Joni Mitchell’s Song To a Seagull. The CD title, Life of the Music/Your Music Brings Out The Poetry In Me, is a powerful collaboration with poet Jeanette Curtis Rideau and Lauren’s music. It is clear to me that both of these creative individuals speak to one another on another level. The groove and mood is reminiscent of the John Coltrane group of the mid ‘60s. Listen how Scott Robinson’s solo sings on the soprano saxophone. In my opinion, this is definitely where the core of Lauren Hooker really is. If That’s What You Feel glides along with a Brazilian medium Samba groove. This melody is sing-able all the way. Scott’s trumpet solo is amazing. Yes, he also plays the flute obbligato as well. Jim Ridl solos beautifully with a rhythmic flair before Lauren returns with the lyric, ending with a unison shout and a collective festive improvisation. You will be compelled to revisit this one,to be sure. Love Me Or Leave Me opens with a strong Blakey-ish shuffle groove from jump-street. Lauren’s rendering of this chestnut is confident and free spirited. I love her loose, laid back, and extremely clear phrasing. The band swings hard and Scott Robinson’s meaty solo soars with long beautiful lyrical lines. This one will make your head “bob” from beginning to end. I Am Doing Very Well is an original ballad by Lauren Hooker. The melody and mood depict pain, heartbreak, and hopeful recovery of romantic relationships that most of us can relate to very well. Song To A Seagull is a Joni Mitchell classic sung with true respect to the song and the composer. If you have ever sat by the sea or lake in total solitude, you are aware of the visions that the words suggest. Close your eyes and allow Lauren and the music transport you there. Mike Richmond’s cello sound adds that breeze in the air. I Lied is another Hooker original that tells a poignant story. This one could possibly become a popular tune with an easy funky groove aided by John Hart’s solo on acoustic guitar. Lauren’s voice takes on a totally different color and sound as she glides in her upper register. The classic Spring Is Here is treated as a lilting jazz waltz. This harmonically clever arrangement is the collaboration between Lauren and master guitarist, Vic Juris. The rhythm section swings propelled by Tim Horner’s great cymbal beat. Bassist Martin Wind shines with his lyrical solo outing followed by Scott’s bird-like flute solo. Jim’s piano solo is appropriately buoyant leading back to Lauren’s out chorus. Another Hooker original composition, Countin’ On The Blues, truly showcases her vocal dexterity with some “barbecue sauce” wrapped around her vocal cords to make this rhythm and blues tune jump out at you. The horn backgrounds and groove established is very authentic and will keep your feet and head moving! Hey This Is Me is another original tune that can easily become a “pop” tune. I am totally impressed how the band transforms into the appropriate backdrop accompaniment to simply allow this infectious groove to flow. This is where Lauren’s experience and musical influences shine through. Walkin’ On Down The Line is in a “Funk” groove that tells another life story. Here again, the band really takes care of serious business. John Hart’s guitar begins to scream while Martin Wind’s electric bass and Tim Horner’s drums just rock! Leonard Bernstein’s composition, Some Other Time, gives Lauren the vehicle to be patient in rendering this beautiful melody and lyric with only bass and guitar. John Hart and Mike Richmond’s improvisations are sculpted beautifully. Lauren Hooker’s voice possesses a myriad of colors that successfully embraces this ambitious and eclectic program. The musicians where chosen for their incredible expertise. The result is a wonderful pairing of creative individuals making great music! Brava Lauren Hooker! Enjoy repeated listening. I certainly have.

LAUREN HOOKER helps to continue the tradition of great jazz singing. Awarded Honorable Mention as one of AllAboutJazz-New York's selected Best CDs in ’07 for her debut CD: “Right Where I Belong”, critics from across the nation and abroad have compared her sound to that of Dianne Reeves, Nancy Wilson, Sarah Vaughan and Dinah Washington, but with a style uniquely her own. Known throughout the NY metropolitan area as a vocalist, instrumentalist, composer, lyricist, educator, producer and storyteller, she performs regularly as a pianist/vocalist, as well as a stand up vocalist with some of the best musicians in the business.

Of her latest release: "Life of the Music" on Miles High Records (Fall 2010), Rufus Reid writes in his liner notes: Lauren Hooker’s voice possesses a myriad of colors that successfully embrace this ambitious and eclectic program. Her voice is mature, rich, robust, and full of emotion that only experience can bring… a close-up view of Lauren’s broad musical scope and fine musicianship… a superb recording. In regards to her debut CD, Christopher Loudon from JAZZ TIMES says ...undeniably impressive… certainly imaginative… can hold her own against pretty much any singer-songwriter in the business… ability to add lyrics to instrumental classics… is flat-out masterful… and George Harris, All About Jazz LA states… Here’s a vocalist that is going to knock you off your chair... hits a double off the wall. Her voice-rich, confident and assured - pitch perfect… her timing, sense of swing - absolutely impeccable, can take a lyric and mold it like clay.

Lauren has been featured in many venues in New York City including Enzo’s Jazz Room at the Jolly Madison Hotel, Smoke Jazz and Supper Club and The International Women in Jazz Festival, as well as in New Jersey at the Puffin Cultural Forum, Barron Art Center, Trumpets and The Summer Jazz Café Series at The Two Rivers Theater. She has performed and/or recorded with some of the best in the business including Mal Waldron, Rufus Reid, Allen Farnham, Vic Juris, Bucky Pizzarelli and Reggie Workman to name a few and has appeared on numerous radio and television stations, most recently in all five boroughs on BCAT filmed live at the "Brooklyn Sings, Brooklyn Swings Series". Her jazz repertoire highlights her three octave range and features original compositions as well as instrumental standards set to her own lyrics and arrangements.

Artist’s statement: I was born into music ... hearing my dad jam with his fellow jazz musicians in the basement ... starting piano lessons at age four ... meeting Bill Evans at the Vanguard whom my father recorded with in college ... being exposed to and singing most of the major oratorios by age fifteen ... shaking hands with Duke Ellington and Dave Brubeck whose sacred works my dad's chorus, the New Jersey Schola Cantorum, performed ... reaching for Sarah Vaughan's range, Ella's scat, Miles Davis' tone and Coltrane's intention. I was not only encouraged, but expected to be a musician, and a well-rounded one at that ... one who could compose, play, sing, arrange and educate.

A former music teacher at the acclaimed Bank Street School in NYC, Lauren is dedicated to the education of young and old alike, conducting jazz vocal workshops, teacher training symposiums, group music classes as well as private piano lessons in her home studio in Teaneck. She also performs in schools, libraries, museums and festivals via her Arts in Education Company: Musical Legends, LLC which she founded in 1993, teaching cultures through the arts and arts through the cultures and is currently working on a television/internet series for children entitled “You Can Do It Too with Ms. Lauren”.

For more info visit Artist’s website:



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Buy CD: Life of the Music
I reviewed Lauren Hooker’s debut album (Right Where I Belong) three years ago, and expressed the desire to hear more from her. She has released a new album, and it was worth the wait. Hooker is more than a vocalist; she’s also a pianist, composer, lyricist and arranger, and all these talents are displayed nicely in this album. She composed and wrote lyrics for seven of these 11 tunes; she plays the piano on three and arranged all of them. As for her “singing,” she’s more than a vocalist; she’s an “instrumentalist.” She has a great jazz sound, a three-octave range and outstanding phrasing and timing. Some reviewers have compared her (favorably) to other artists; I find that her combination of skills makes her unique. As always is the case, truly great jazz vocalists know that the quality of the accompanying musicians can make or break them; the group supporting Hooker does an excellent job. The combo includes John Hart on guitar; Scott Robinson on everything (flute/saxes/trumpet/flugelhorn); Mike Richmond on cello and bass; and a standard piano/bass/drums rhythm section. Hooker also does a beautiful job on covers of songs by others, notably “Love Me or Leave Me,” “Spring Is Here” and Joni Mitchell’s “Song to a Seagull.” Hooker is a keeper; too bad she limits her work to the New York City area.

O’s Place Jazz Newsletter

O's Notes:
" Lauren has a voice with a lot of character, guts and inflection. Life of the Music is a fine creation, a marriage of four classic tunes with seven originals that cover a wide spectrum - pop, ballads, blues and jazz."

Darius Rips

Oliver di Place On Building a Jazz Song…
I Am Doing Very Well sounds like a standard, but is actually a Lauren Hooker original. To our basic band of drums, bass, and piano, Hooker adds a flugelhorn here, which is like adding a second voice. This is one of those songs about a woman who is trying to convince herself that she is alright without a recently lost lover. Listen to the way Hooker sings the word “except”. Another singer might stretch out the note, trying to wring every ounce of feeling out of it, and oversinging instead. Not Hooker. She clips that “except” short, and that says everything. It comes off like a sob caught in her throat, and the whole song works because of it.

Elsewhere on the album, Hooker uses fuller arrangements than most of those in this post. In particular, her use of a cello in Song to a Seagull is a beautiful touch. Hooker can get different shades of emotion by making use of her wide range, but that would mean nothing without the talent and judgment to know what each song needs. Similarly, the diversity of arrangements found on this album is impressive, but never just for show. Hooker knows what each song needs, and she delivers.


Singer and pianist Lauren Hooker takes chances on Life Of The Music, her second album. She sets her own compositions up against classics of American music, re-works old favorites and uses some vocal shifts and inflections that other singers might think twice about. And thank goodness she does, because in doing so Hooker has assembled a refreshingly original set that both challenges and brings out the best in the singer and the top-flight band that accompanies her.
Hooker's voice has an edge to it—it's not the standard soft-focus sound that seems to have become the norm for many new generation jazz singers. At first this can sound comparatively harsh but over time it becomes obvious that this edginess gives Hooker's sound a sensual quality all of its own. There are hints of Anita O'Day, of Joni Mitchell—not only on Mitchell's "Song to a Seagull" but also on Hooker's own "I Lied"—and even of Britain's Norma Winstone, but ultimately Hooker's voice has its own distinctive character.
The band is also distinctive. Scott Robinson, a terrific horn player who is equally at home with the Great American Songbook and the cosmic sounds of Marshall Allen, plays exquisitely throughout the album—his soprano sax on "Life of the Music / Your Music Brings Out The Poetry In Me" flies and soars above the vocals and his flugelhorn solo on "I am Doing Very Well" adds greatly to the song's mood. John Hart plays some beautifully fluid guitar—his acoustic guitar solo on "I Lied" is an album highlight—while "Song to a Seagull" benefits from Mike Richmond's cello. Richmond moves to the acoustic bass to join Hart on a sparsely beautiful backing for Hooker's vocal on Betty Comden, Adolph Green and Leonard Bernstein's "Some Other Time."
Hooker's cover versions are always interesting. Her version of Richard Rodgers and Lorenz Hart's gorgeous "Spring is Here" is an intriguing re-interpretation of the Songbook classic and on Walter Donaldson and Gus Kahn's "Love Me or Leave Me" Hooker's confident approach makes the vocal more of an instruction than a plea. Hooker's own covers are stylistically more straightforward, but she writes insightful lyrics and her phrasing and emphases work well in enhancing their impact—it's only the standard blues of "Countin' On The Blues" that sounds ordinary.
Special mention must go to "Life of the Music / Your Music Brings Out The Poetry In Me." Hooker wrote the first half of this coupling around a poem handed to her by its anonymous author at a Greenwich Village gig. On the second part the poet Jeanette Curtis Rideau takes over from Hooker to recite her own words over the music. The whole composition has a real after midnight beat poet feel, heightened by Martin Wind's bass and Robinson's soprano sax. This is Hooker's most impressive and original composition on Life Of The Music, a consistently imaginative and superbly performed set of songs.

Chuck Vecoli
“Life of the Music” is Lauren Hooker’s second CD coming three years after her debut effort. The CD gives an expansive sampling of Ms. Hooker’s styles and skills as vocalist, composer and pianist. The CD features many of her own compositions executed by a talented list of musicians including John Hart on guitars, and a guest appearance of Mike Richmond on cello and acoustic bass, as well as many other players. Hooker’s vocal styling is unique and her lyrics lend themselves to that style. While the compositions themselves are diverse and make for a well-rounded listen, the lyrics are sometimes very personal and create a sense of disconnect between tracks. Some of the track choices could have been left off and other equally emotional and sensitive pieces used instead to give the CD a more unified theme around the personal experience.
That being said, there are some very special pieces on this CD, mostly Hooker’s original compositions that have some real depth to them as they are expressed by her own vocals. A few notable tracks include If That’s What You Feel, I Am Doing Very Well, and I Lied. These songs show the wide range of musical styles in which Hooker is comfortable. They lend themselves to her vocal phrasing and they are very personal expressions. These would be keys to the success of this CD, had she stuck to that theme. With that approach she would have rendered a very personal CD with great tunes and solid pop jazz appeal.
My impression of the covers on this CD is that they are credible executions, but Love Me or Leave Me was the only notable track in this category. It fit the underlyng theme and was delivered strongly. Hooker’s strength is in her sophisticated bluesy styling and that lends itself to her relationship-themed tunes whether her originals or covers. She can vamp a tune, and shape and style a tune across the entire emotional palette. That is an enjoyable characteristic of her work. I would love to see her put together one of those rainy afternoon CDs of broken-heart themed ballads and blues that her voice is ideally suited to. Until then “Life of the Music” is a solid second effort by Lauren Hooker and she is a talent that offers lots for the future.

Grady Harp AMAZON

Lauren Hooker in a Different Mode…
There are few musicians with the depth of training that Lauren Hooker has. She is highly respected in the New York music scene not only for her admirable qualities as a jazz vocalist (she is one of the best before audiences today!), but she is also a composer, a creative lyricist, and an innovator in a field of luminaries.

On this CD, LIFE OF THE MUSIC, Hooker approaches her selection of songs with a different stance, one that is more didactic in many ways, as though she is giving a master course in jazz. Her opening track not only allows her to sing and play one of her own compositions and reads the poem by Jeanette Curtis Rideau as though showing us how music and poetry mix in a final impact. Then she is off and running with some standards (Love me or Leave Me, Song to a Seagull, Spring is Here, Some other Time) mixed with seven of her own compositions. She has selected some very fine musicians with whom to collaborate and varies the combination of instrumentalists to match the mood of her varied selections. One of the strongest tracks on this album is her rendition of Leonard Bernstein's 'Some other Time' she offers with simple guitar and bass accompaniment.

This is a well balanced album, one that allows us to sample the many aspects of Hooker's talent. She is clearly a force to contend with and her progress as one the country's finest jazz musicians is readily apparent in this her newest album.

Doug Boynton
I scored an advance copy of this one – the second issue for Ms. Hooker and her band. On the first recording, 2007′s “Right Where I Belong,” I said, “I’ll think of this one as experimental…she and the guys have taken some chances here. Not every one worked for me.”
Ms. Hooker and the band are still some distance from the center of my comfort zone – blank-verse poetry breaks out in the opening track – but this disc sports seven original tracks. “I Am Doing Very Well,” and “Countin’ On The Blues,” both written by Ms. Hooker, could both stand alongside any Great American Songbook classic. Favorites from the realm of standards on this disc include “Love Me Or Leave Me” and the Joni Mitchell ballad, “Song To A Seagull,” featuring Mike Richmond on cello.
Ms. Hooker is a music educator and a pianist herself – backed here by Jim Ridl – also on piano, Martin Wind on bass, Tim horner on percussion and flute, Scott Robinson on a whole variety of wind instruments, who has a nice saxophone riff on “Countin’ On The Blues.”
I went back and listened to the first recording. She’s not changing. I think my tastes are.
This disc is highly recommended.


Style: Straightahead/Mainstream
In 2007, vocalist Lauren Hooker turned out an impressive debut, Right Where I Belong (Musical Legends, Inc., 2007), which highlighted her solid, yet flexible, voice, and an ability to graft her own lyrics onto familiar instrumental jazz standards. Three years later, Hooker returns with a program that largely focuses on her own lyrics and music, demonstrating interests in the blues, straight-ahead jazz, funk, pop and Brazilian music.
The opening track—a collaboration between Hooker and poet Jeanette Curtis Rideau—has some bite to it, featuring a burning solo from Scott Robinson's molten soprano saxophone. "If That's What You Feel" begins with Hooker's wordless vocals moving along with Robinson's flugelhorn, over a swaying Brazilian beat. One of the most emotionally powerful originals on the album is "I Am Doing Very Well"—a break-up song that touches on all of the conflicting emotions and pain that comes with that territory. Bassist Martin Wind adds a little Brazilian bounce to "I Lied," but John Hart's guitar work is the focal point on this one. Wind and drummer Tim Horner are a solid team behind Hooker on "Countin' The Blues," which features a terrific walking-the-bar-type saxophone solo from Robinson. "Hey This Is Me" is Hooker's take on contemporary pop—with a slight R&B tinge to the music—and "Walkin' On Down The Line" features some funky drumming from Horner and raunchy guitar sounds from Hart.
While Hooker's compositional craft is at the core of the album, she also finds time to tackle four standards, shaped to her own liking. Her vocals cut like a knife on "Love Me Or Leave Me," which features some sublime scatting, and she soars on a waltzing "Spring Is Here." The latter tune is underscored by Horner's crisp, dry and articulate ride cymbal work, and Robinson's fluttery flute is a treat here. "Some Other Time" gently glides long as Hooker is intimately accompanied by Mike Richmond on bass and Hart on guitar. Seagulls had their place on Hooker's first album—with "Seagulls (Seagulls of Kristiansund)"—and this particular fowl found its way onto this record through Joni Mitchell's "Song To A Seagull." Hooker manages to create wide dramatic range—coming off with full throated vocals that Mitchell couldn't match when she penned this early-career classic—and the pairing of cello and piano is a nice touch. While this song has a sunny veneer, darker moods seem to lurk around. Life Of The Music, with its engaging original material and intelligently crafted covers, might just get plenty of people hooked on Lauren Hooker.

Chris Spector

Midwest Record LAUREN HOOKER/Life of the Music:
A spiritual descendant to Anita O’Day, this risk taking jazz vocalist took her time between releases, but she will serve no performance before it’s time. Smoky, basement music whether she’s serving up Joni Mitchell, Leonard Bernstein or something that comes from a smoky shadow, Hooker is the main event after the main event. A delightful hipster who’s after midnight vibe will make you late for work, with a smile on your face, Hooker is a gas. Certainly left of center jazz vocalizing, this is one groovy chick from start to finish.

Dick Metcalf aka: Rotcod Zzaj

When I first reviewed Lauren’s fantastic vocal work on her debut in issue # 81, I was more than just “impressed” – I was captivated by her husky-toned marvels. On this new release (11/16/2010), she took it a step further in the direction I love my music to go, with a beautifully done spoken-word piece & title track, “Life of the Music/Your Music Brings Out the Poetry In Me” (spoken by Jeanette Curtis Rideau). This is a whole new dimension, & I love it, ‘specially since my own initial forays into performance were oriented around spoken-word. It’s my personal opinion that when a truly talented singer performs poetry, it’s even better than “straight singing”, & this piece proves it beyond the shadow of any doubt. It’s also most notable that Lauren does acoustic/electric piano & Djembe drum on several of the cuts… more of those “new dimensions” that show the depth of her talents! Another tune that really caught my ear was Lauren’s rendition of Joni’s “Song To a Seagull“; some beautiful cello by guest Mike Richmond on this one, too. It was the lively & down-home tune “Countin’ On the Blues” that got an immediate favorite pick from me, though… Lauren shows herself to be a sultan of swingin’ blues on this one! I give her a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, with an “EQ” (energy quotient) rating of 4.98 for this one.
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