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Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Halie Loren - After Dark

Halie Loren - After Dark
2010, White Moon Productions
 The past year has been a momentous one for Halie Loren.  Winning the Just Plain Folks Award for Best Jazz Vocal album to becoming a major label artist in Japan (her album They Oughta Write A Song went to #1 on the Amazon Japan charts and stayed in the top-10 for several days.  The crowds in Japan have been growing, and would seem to portend the success that seems inevitable back home in the States.  Loren also released a successful live album, Stages, showing off the line energy that makes her an in-demand performer.  Loren returns on November 16, 2010 with a new album of studio recordings.  After Dark mixes original and cover tunes and shows a somewhat lighter side of Loren, who is again joined by capable skills of pianist Matt Treder, bassist Mark Schneider, Chris Ward on guitar and Brian West (percussion), with guest appearances by guitarist Jack Jezzro.
Loren opens with “After Dark”, a theatrical ballad of forbidden love perfected in secret.  Loren burns with desire, the many levels and textures of her vocal sound sparkling in the dark light of sensuality and longing.  This is an amazing start full of power and emotion.  Loren sings in English and Spanish on Jobim’s “Waters Of March”, finding a place that is subtle and refined but thoroughly in the moment of the song.  “Gray To Grand” is a Loren-penned piece of sweet and breezy jazz/pop with a pretty melody and a light feel; a nice change of pace with a developing worldview full of optimism.
“La Vie En Rose” is one of those songs that artists tackle almost at their own peril.  Edith Piaf being the icon that she is, her signature song is one that gets butchered more often than not.  Halie Loren gives a bravura performance in flawless French, as if she were born to sing it.  “Thirsty”, another Loren original, is a song of unequivocal longing and desire with an arrangement that sounds like it might have come out of a Sting recording session circa 1988.  It’s an amazing bit of songwriting and seems to represent a step forward for Loren as a songwriter.  Loren goes a bit free form in her take on Ray Henderson and Mort Dixon’s “Bye Bye Blackbird”, offering a highly interpretive vocal.  Loren works this for all it’s worth in a flawless performance.  The band is right there with her at every step, with pianist Matt Treder in particular standing out. 
Loren interprets Bobbie Gentry’s “Ode To Billie Joe” as a slinky blues number and absolutely inhabits the song.  This is one of those performances after which you simply sit back and say, “Wow.”  Loren takes the air of mystery of the original and raises it a notch.  John Shipe joins Halie Loren for a duet on “Beyond The Sea”.  This is an opposites attract pairing, as Shipe vocally sounds like a lightweight next to Halie Loren’s full voice.  The mix works because of the contrast, but they do sound mismatched at times.  Loren takes on Duke Ellington’s “In A Sentimental Mood” in another “Wow” moment that smooth and lush; artful and rife with emotion.   Loren has fun with Stevie Wonder’s “Happier Than The Morning Sun”, a celebratory love song that’s jubilant in its aspect and refined.
Loren gives Tracey Chapman’s “Give Me One Reason” a surprising read; putting her own distinctive stamp on the tune.  It might take a couple of listens to get into this arrangement, but the song will grow on you.  “It’s You” is a sensual song detailing a long distance love affair.  It’s the textures of Loren’s voice that stand out in a chill-inducing performance.  Jack Jezzro takes on final turn on “Time To Say Goodbye”, while Loren makes the chorus absolutely soar with nuance and a sort of beautiful grit.  It’s a magical moment where the artist, Loren, rises above her art into the sublime.  After Dark closes with a cover of Joni Mitchell’s “Carey”, blending Caribbean, swing and pop styles.
It’s hard to imagine Halie Loren not being a star.  With a masterful voice that’s part Etta James and part Sarah McLachlan, a subtle touch that allows her to blend vulnerability and sensuality unlike any other artist currently in jazz or pop music, and a talent for phrasing that’s uncanny, Halie Loren is the complete package.  After Dark shows a slightly lighter side to Halie Loren, but at the same time shows her gaining gravitas as a performer.  This could be the breakout album in the US; the one that takes Halie Loren from a known quantity to the status of being a big name.  Whatever happens on the charts or in the popular media, there will be little doubt to those in the know that After Dark is one of the finest vocal jazz albums of 2010.  It’s certainly a Wildy’s World Certified Desert Island Disc, a must have album.
Rating: 5 Stars (Out of 5)
Learn more about Halie Loren at or After Dark drops on November 16, 2010.  Pre-orders are available from for both CD and Download.

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