In Any Key/After Hours/Heartbeat
Review by Willard Manus

Jazz has always had marvelous singers; here are three young vocalists who just might get to lead the parade in the years to come.

GRETJE ANGELL "IN ANY KEY" is a Ohio-born singer with an impressive jazz pedigree. The daughter and grand-daughter of drummers, she was destined to take her place in the jazz world. She has a small but warm voice, which she shows off to good effect on her new CD. Working through nine standards, she not only sings but scats on tunes like "I'm Old Fashioned" and "Them There Eyes." Then she switches to Portuguese on "Berimbau." She takes on yet another Brazilian love song, Jobim's "One Note Samba," this time in English.
What stands out is Angell's work with guitarist/producer Dori Amarillo. Their interplay is a thing of beauty. (

BLIND LEMON PLEDGE'S "AFTER HOURS" showcases the vocal prowess of James Byfield, the San Francisco-based singer/songwriter/guitarist/producer. Working under the stage name of Blind Lemon Pledge, Byfield has written twelve new songs for this album, which is meant to sound like the kind of music you might hear in a 1940s Harlem nightclub.

Blind Lemon's blues-soaked compositions include "After Hours" (the time for love), "If Beale Street Was a Woman" (doin' the Memphis crawl), and "Buddy Bolden"s Song" (the King of Jazz has blown his last). Handling the vocals is a singer new to me, Marisa Malvino, a real find. She and Ben Flint on keyboards show obvious rapport.

Blind Lemon sings only once on this CD. His tune, "Blue Heartbreak," is a scorcher that lights up the house. (
JELENA JOVOVIC'S "HEARTBEAT" arrives by way of Belgrade, where the Serbian-born singer made this album with some of East Europe's top jazz musicians.

Jelena is no stranger to jazz; she has sung (in unaccented English) with the likes of Mark Murphy, Chuck Israels, Sheila Jordan and Bob Mover. Jelena also writes songs; all of the ten numbers on HEARTBEAT are originals (though some are based on instrumentals by Wayne Shorter, Fridih Bruneti and Don Grolnick).

Jelena is an accomplished and versatile singer with a deep love for jazz--and for certain Balkan folk songs, which she transforms into Western-sounding ballads and blues. She even used Tatar throat-singers as back-up on the tune, "The Countless Stars."

As lyricist, Jelena tells complex, sometimes literary stories, but she can swing when she wants, especially on "Little Freddie Steps," a "boogaloo" that makes you think you're listening to Count Basie. ( or

The last word should go to Gretje Angell, who has some good advice to pass along to us: "Now play that shit and go make some babies!"