Halie Loren – Heart First
2012, White Moon Productions
2012, White Moon Productions
Vocal jazz is full ingénues and established stars. Those who make it from the former to the latter are rare. It takes a tremendous sound, an incredible amount of hard work and yes, a little bit of luck. Halie Loren is slowly transforming herself from the former to the latter. Already a star in Japan, the release of Heart First this spring saw Loren become a top-selling Jazz artist in Canada. The U.S. may not be far behind as Loren continues to build recognition for both her name and what may one day be considered her iconic voice.
Heart First opens with “A Woman’s Way”, showing off a wonderfully lush and smoky alto voice that gets you from the opening notes. The song calls for vocal character, and Loren matches the call both with personality and a shifting palette of intriguing vocal timbres. Halie Loren is at her best here, portraying the knowing vulnerability of a Billie Holliday mixed with the pure affability of Harry Connick, Jr. “C’est Si Bon” is brilliant, with Loren singing in French as if it were her first language. Loren switches gears to 1970’s R&B (ala Dionne Warwick) on “Waiting In Vain”. Loren offers up a top-notch vocal, but the song itself fails to impress due to its repetitive nature and cookie-cutter style.
After a brief tour into Latin sounds for “Sway (Quien Sera)”, Halie Loren gets down to brass tacks for “Heart First”. She’s entirely in her element here, with a bluesy-jazz sound and outstanding accompaniment from pianist Matthew Treder. This is an all-around WOW moment.
Loren’s fine talent as an interpreter of classic songs is on full display in “My One And Only Love”. Perfect phrasing, wonderful timbres and an elegant sense of musical timing make this a sublime moment. Loren settles in for a solid run through songs such as “All Of Me”, the funky “Tender To The Touch”, “Lotta Love” and “In Time”. “Taking A Chance On Love” rises above this pack as Halie Loren once again applies her interpretive magic. Rounding the final turn for home, Loren launches into a masterful reading of Charlie Chaplin’s “Smile”. Singing like the song was written just for her, Loren captures the co-mingled sorrow and happiness in a bit of vocal magic that is among the finest moments in Jazz in 2012. Most artists would end here, but Loren has one more trick up her sleeve. Stripping everything away and singing with just acoustic guitar, bass and minimalist percussion, Loren finds another perfect moment on “Crazy Love”. This is one of those rare closing songs where the listener finds themselves sitting still once the song ends, drinking in the last fading notes of magic.
Halie Loren is one of the most talented young vocalists in Jazz, and Heart First does absolutely nothing to discourage this view. Loren works to expand her sound a bit this time around, blending some of her pop-oriented interests with the classic jazz sound she is known for. The result is perhaps a bit uneven at times, but Loren’s voice can cover most any musical sin. Heart First sounds like a transition album, and it will be very curious to hear where Loren is headed next. This time out Loren shows she is no flash in the pan, while beginning to broaden the musical landscape she can work on. And the moments of magic she finds are sublime.
Rating: 4.5 Stars (Out of 5)
Learn more at www.halieloren.com.