December 2008

Various Artists - Putumayo presents Women of Jazz
Putumayo PUT 286-2
Format: CD
Released: 2008

by Shannon Holliday

Musical Performance ****
Recording Quality ****
Overall Enjoyment ****

The Putumayo World Music label knows how to release a good collection of music. Regardless of genre, this label's compilations can be counted on to be original, well planned and eye-opening in their exposure of up-and-coming artists. The same is true and then some for their latest release, Women of Jazz. The ten women featured are all stellar singers who exude the aesthetics of sultry, brooding, honey-voiced grand dames of jazz. However, the only one I recognized and whose work I had heard before was Cassandra Wilson, who presents a double-time version of the standard "Lover Come Back to Me." The obscurity factor is certainly the greatest appeal of this disc. You'll listen in rapt, jaw-dropping awe; the disc plays like an hour's worth of profound discovery, while the liner notes assist nicely, giving a descriptive biography of each woman and her individual style. You walk away from the experience feeling at once schooled and newly in the know to these chanteuses.

The mood is instantly set as the disc opens with Melody Gardot and her phenomenal song "Goodnite." Snapping fingers set the beat, with smooth electric guitar and keyboard scales alongside Gardot's alluring vocals. Madeleine Peyroux's voice bears striking similarity to Billie Holiday's, and her take on the Leonard Cohen song "Dance Me to the End of Love" weaves a fairytale-like allure. Sophie Milman, Hope Waits, Kate Paradise, Jennifer Hartswick, Stacey Kent, Della Griffin and Etta Jones each make unforgettable contributions as the disc continues. The music backing them is at times classy lounge sound, other times full-speed fury, just tinged with a touch of blues -- luxuriant jazz throughout. The result is a flawless collection of female vocalists, each deserving of further investigation and recognition.