New Sounds from the Jazz Age Lizzie Thomas (s/r)
by Scott Yanow
Lizzie Thomas, an excellent jazz singer, originally had classical piano and clarinet lessons before deciding to focus on being a vocalist. After college, she worked as a keyboard player with alternative indie bands in Nashville and spent a year listening exclusively to Billie Holiday records. To her credit, she sounds nothing like Lady Day nor does she sound like a moonlighting rocker. Instead, Thomas displays her own joyful spirit. She has been a fixture on the New York jazz scene for a decade and had previously released three CDs.While the title of her fourth CD sounds like an exploration of the ‘20s, she actually performs nine familiar jazz standards mostly dating from the ‘30s (Irving Berlin’s “Cheek To Cheek”) to the ‘60s (Antônio Carlos Jobim-Newton Mendonça’s “One Note Samba”). She is joined by pianist John Colianni (who also provided the arrangements), Matt Chertkoff or Russell Malone on guitar, Jay Leonhart or Boots Maleson on bass, drummer Bernard Linette, percussionist Doug Hendrichs and occasionally Omar Daniels on tenor saxophone and flute and clarinetist Felix Peikli.Thomas has a strong and attractive voice, somehow sounds relaxed at rapid tempos (“One Note Samba” is really blazing), scats with spirit when it fits the song and handles the sometimes-tricky arrangements well. Colianni’s reworking of the Gershwins’ “Fascinating Rhythm” is particularly creative, starting with the verse at a slow tempo, moving on to the chorus at a faster pace and then ending as a slightly slower and saucier strut. Other highpoints include Thomas’ singing on the verse of the Gershwins’ “Our Love Is Here To Stay” (backed by Malone), the happily loose take on Cole Porter’s “You’d Be So Nice To Come Home To” and Latin-ish versions of Porter’s “In the Still Of The Night” and Ray Noble’s “The Very Thought Of You”.The one reservation of the 35-minute program is that the performances are so concise (only one number exceeds five minutes and five are under four) there is very little solo space from the sidemen, a half-chorus at the most and often just eight bars. Hopefully next time there will be some stretching out. Otherwise, New Sounds from the Jazz Age is an excellent showcase for Lizzie Thomas.For more information, visit lizziethomas.net. This project is at Gin Fizz Harlem Mar. 20th. See Calendar.