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Marianne Matheny-Katz | Somewhere in Paradise

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Jazz: Jazz Vocals Jazz: Mainstream Jazz Moods: Type: Vocal
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Somewhere in Paradise

by Marianne Matheny-Katz

Captivating jazz vocalist possesses a quintessential jazz voice enlivened with lissome, conversational phrasing. The Billie Holiday Competition award winner also enlists the support of some of the finest jazz instrumentalists in the US on this disc.
Genre: Jazz: Jazz Vocals
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  Song Share Time Download
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1. Our Love Is Here to Stay
5:09 $0.99
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2. Whisper Not
3:39 $0.99
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3. All Blues
5:26 $0.99
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4. Fair Weather
5:03 $0.99
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5. Comes Love
4:49 $0.99
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6. The Way You Look Tonight
3:27 $0.99
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7. Still We Dream (Ugly Beauty)
3:29 $0.99
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8. You Must Believe in Spring
6:32 $0.99
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9. You Taught My Heart to Sing
5:52 $0.99
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10. Look for the Silver Lining
3:58 $0.99
Downloads are available as MP3-320 files.

ABOUT THIS ALBUM


Album Notes
Somewhere in Paradise marks the solo debut of Marianne Matheny-Katz, a captivating singer who’s been a fixture in Baltimore for more than a decade. She possesses a quintessential jazz voice, which she enlivens with lissome, conversational phrasing. She remains mindful of the melodies and lyrics of her material and has a penchant for dressing it in new and noteworthy arrangements.

The disc also celebrates Charm City’s fertile jazz scene by featuring such heavyweights as reed players Todd Marcus, Tim Green, Craig Alston; bassist Eric Wheeler, pianist Vince Evans; drummer Eric Kennedy; and triple-threat jazz superstar Warren Wolf on vibraphone, piano and drums. Also featured is trumpeter Terell Stafford.

These musicians frequently perform at Jazzway 6004, the non-profit performance space she and her husband, Howard Katz, started in their own spacious home. Outside the house stands a modern sculpture created by Destiny Allison. After the couple purchased and installed the piece, Howard had sent Marianne a photo of the sculpture at night with the moon in the background and the caption: “Somewhere in Paradise.” That phrase struck a chord with Matheny-Katz when she started evaluating all of the songs on the disc.

"All the songs are about people forging their own place in paradise,” Matheny-Katz explains. “That’s very much my own story.”

Indeed, her trajectory is as fantastic as her music. She was married at 20 and struck out on her own after 25 years. After her divorce in the mid-1990s, she decided to return to her first passion—music, something that she had abandoned, partly in favor of a high-pressure job with the Army as an economist.

Born on Staten Island, a teenaged Marianne started singing folk music in New York City coffeehouses during the 1960s. A fellow band member introduced her to Billie Holiday, Nina Simone, and Bessie Smith. Marianne dug the music but remained focused on folk music. “I was intimidated by jazz,” Matheny-Katz explains.

Even when she first returned, Matheny-Katz didn’t sing jazz; she sang blues with an Annapolis-based combo, Park House Jam for 12 years. They played at local spots in the Baltimore and Washington, D.C. area and released a 2004 disc, Fully Exposed. Guitarist/recording engineer Mac Walter encouraged Matheny-Katz to enter the Billie Holiday Vocal Competition in 2000, and she took second place. She competed again in 2002 winning the same high position. Those life-affirming experiences put Matheny-Katz on the road to becoming a bona fide jazz singer.

Matheny-Katz studied with Jay Clayton, Vince Evans, Sheila Jordan, J.D. Walter and the late Ronnie Wells, all of whom she considers mentors. From them, she learned the importance of knowing and respecting the material at hand. “I don’t like to do a lot of improvising or scatting until I get the song down,” says Matheny-Katz. “Your phrasing is what brings out the story in a song.”

Somewhere in Paradise certainly captures Matheny-Katz’s brilliance at bringing out the story of a song. The disc begins with an ingenious makeover of George and Ira Gershwin’s “Our Love Is Here to Stay.” If you listen carefully, you’ll notice how she slyly updates the material with references to Facebook and iPhone. “I hear so many people criticize the older standards for reminiscing a totally different time and not being relevant today,” she says. “When you’re doing a song like that, you have to put that image into people’s head in which you can actually see things going away or being replaced by the next big thing.”

Matheny-Katz’s blues sensibilities come through on Wolf’s arrangement of Golson’s “Whisper Not,” a composition she first heard Anita O’Day sing. This cherished classic has been in Matheny-Katz’s repertoire for 12 years.
The disc continues with another fantastic Wolf arrangement— Miles’ epochal “All Blues,” on which the singer glides across a swift Afro-Cuban rhythm, embellished by riveting solos from Wolf on vibraphone and Stafford’s fiery trumpet. “I’d been doing it conventionally for a long time. So I told Warren that I wanted to do something different with it,” Matheny-Katz says, “He came up with this Latin rhythm and fast tempo. I love the way it moves, especially when Terell comes in; it just lights up.”

Wolf also arranged the glowing rendition of Dorham’s “Fair Weather,” the late trumpeter’s gentle embrace for all of humanity. Matheny-Katz first heard the song rendered by her mentor, Jordan. Then she discovered a rare recording of Dorham playing piano and singing the hopeful lyrics; it brought tears to Matheny-Katz’s eyes. “He sounded so innocent and sincere,” she says, “Coming from a black man, who’s wishing for this coming together of all people, walking hand-in-hand, the song was relevant in his day for different reasons because there was so much segregation. Now with President Obama being in office, a lot of racist attitudes are coming to the surface. We keep saying that America has a post-racial society, but we’re not there yet.”

Matheny-Katz dips into her Lady Day repertoire with the 1939 standard, “Comes Love,” which she imbues with a come- hither allure. “That’s one of my favorite Billie Holiday tunes; it’s very sexy,” she says, before explaining that the tunes is a bit autobiographical in how she won Howard’s heart over a Russian girlfriend during his swinging bachelor years.
Bass clarinet phenom Marcus arranged the intricate makeover of Jerome Kern and Dorothy Field’s “The Way You Look Tonight” by underscoring it suspenseful rubato feel.

Monk’s compositions are also a huge part of Matheny-Katz’s songbook. Here, she presents a mesmerizing take on “Still We Dream (Ugly Beauty),” inspired by Carmen McCrae’s 1988 rendition. “I love the words,” Matheny-Katz says. “I thought the words were perfect for a middle-aged person because it’s clear that they come from someone who’s been around the block a few times. But they’re still hopeful that they’re going to find love.”

Matheny-Katz retooled the popular gem, “You Must Believe in Spring” into a simmering bossa nova ballad to highlight Alan and Marilyn Bergman’s gorgeous lyrics. She recruits Marcus again for the splendid arrangement of McCoy Tyner and Sammy Cahn’s “You Taught My Heart to Sing,” another sort of autobiographical song for the singer in that she found happiness in her second marriage. The song also features a beautiful, serpentine solo from Marcus on clarinet.

The disc concludes with Marcus’ swinging arrangement of “Look for the Silver Lining” by Buddy Desylva, Jerome Kern and Jerry J. Novak. Matheny-Katz’s ebullient version was inspired by Chet Baker’s performance of it. “I heard him singing this tune, and I found it very moving because it’s such a happy song juxtaposed against his very tragic life.” The tune accentuates the disc’s theme regarding yearning for paradise. Matheny-Katz conveys just the right amount of sanguine optimism, borne out of personal struggles and triumphs. “I’ve had people tell me that my voice sounds too happy to sing jazz,” she says, “I’ve seen profound sadness. But I’m very grateful for anything that I have.”

—John Murph
John Murph writes for JazzTimes, Down Beat, NPR Jazz, and The Atlantic Monthly.

Instrumentalists:
Vince Evans - piano (tracks 1, 5, 6, 8,9, 10)
Craig Alston - tenor saxophone
Tim Green - alto saxophone
Eric Kennedy - drums (all tracks except 5)
Todd Marcus - bass clarinet and clarinet
Terell Stafford - trumpet
Eric Wheeler - bass
Warren Wolf - vibraphone (tracks 2, 3, and 8), piano (tracks 2, 3, 4 and 7) and drums (track 5)

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