I started singing when I was a child. My first known recordings happened when I was three years old. Over the years I probably made a few others for family and friends, but it took a great many more years to make one that was available in stores and on line.
I am sure I have always been a jazz singer. My early influences were all women who had been band singers: Ella, Peggy, Sarah, Chris Connor and June Christy. And when I was fourteen years old that’s what I was too. Singing with bands and small combos at country clubs and in the last of the old ballrooms left in my home state of Minnesota.
By the time I got to College I was contemplating a life in Musical Comedy having received a Scholarship in Theatre Arts at the University of Minnesota. Two years later I was off to New York and shortly after I found myself with a few jazz gigs in clubs in New York and Conn. But the road never felt good to me and when I was offered a job doing some voiceovers for Cremora (both the voice over and the jingle) and not long after that found an agent in the voiceover field – well, it seemed that was the answer for me. Certainly, it was at the time and I let voiceover work support singing and the rest of my life.
I have spent well over twenty years as a VO actor and coach. I am currently the National Recording Secretary of the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists, and a few years ago I completed the Feldenkrais training, which changed the way I sing, teach and breathe.
In 2003, I released my first CD “Here’s to Life” on the Harlemwood label with the help of my good friends Voza Rivers and Jamal Joseph.
I am a trained actor who is a jazz singer. I am a jazz singer who is a trained actor. The most important thing I can do is sing from the heart and tell the truth.
In my live performances I have always strived to have the songs I sing tell some kind of story; one song building on the other. Historically, the emphasis is almost always on the so-called joy of love. I’ve shied away from exploring my very deep feelings about the other side of love. This CD is about that other side. It is about love found and love lost, heartbreak, yearning and devotion. It is about all the sides of love I have experienced and imagine that everyone else has too. I didn’t know that I was making this CD when I started. When I finished and saw the list of tunes I was somewhat surprised that those are the ones that came out of me now. Like I said…singing the truth.
Lainie Cooke, “It's Always You”
Posted by: editoron Wednesday, July 15, 2009 - 10:40 AM
By: Edward Blanco
Better late than never, is a phrase everyone is familiar with but takes on a special meaning for vocalist Lainie Cooke, a remarkable singer who has waited more than most for the opportunity to engage her first love of song. With “It's Always You,” her sophomore recording, Cooke presents a mellow twelve-track set of wonderful standards bathed in new light and well accompanied by a finesse cast of players. No longer a youngster, this mature seasoned veteran of the arts, possesses powerful vocals allowing her to travel effortlessly from fiery passages to soothing cool terrain in graceful style.
She actually began singing very early in life, from age six to fronting a big big band at the tender age of fourteen, this Minneapolis-born songbird had much promise when life managed to get in the way. After an education and working as an actress and voice over artist for 30 years, Cooke clawed her way back from obscurity singing in night clubs and in cabarets from New York to LA culminatin g with her 2002 debut “Here's To Life” at the age of sixty. Now, just a tad older but finer, Cooke provides a superb performance interpreting old standards like Ray Noble's “The Very Thought of You,” Michel Legrand's “I Will Wait For You,” and Cole Porter's classic “After You” with tenderness.
Of course there are other songs that deserve meaningful attention beginning with the opener “It's Always You,” and continue with the oft recorded “Too Close For Comfort,” and lesser known scores like “Tuesdays In Chinatown,” and “Answer Me” just to name a few. Not to be overlooked here is the personnel that provide the backup instrumentals which include none other than the great Joel Frahm on the reeds, Ted Firth on piano, Roland Barber on trombone and rounding out the rhythm section are guitarist Marvin Horne, bassist Cameron Brown and drummer Matt Wilson—all providing superb musical support.
No question about this one folks, Lainie Cooke has a winner on her hands with “It's Always You,” ably demonstrating that sometimes the wait is well worth it—considering the quality of the music and her unique vocal delivery—it certainly was.
It’s Always You (Harlemwood Records)
Among jazz singers, there’s never been any shortage of late-to-the –game practitioners, but Lainie Cooke numbers among the few who can claim to have started early--very early--yet waited more than half a lifetime to make their recording debut.
The Minneapolis-born Cooke has been singing since age 3 and was fronting a big band at 14. Throughout the 1980s, she proved a consistent favorite on the L.A. club circuit. She then planned to take New York by storm but instead ended up paying the bills by lending her sand-dusted soprano to jingles for the likes of Ford and McDonald’s, augmenting her commercial work with regular concert dates. Finally, in 2002, the wider world got the chance to discover, with the release of Here’s to Life, what a select few bi-coastal club-goers had known for decades: that Cooke is a first-rate interpreter of jazz standards both sassy and sweet.
Now with more than another half-decade having passed, Cooke has delivered a follow-up disc, demonstrating that her unique brand of steel-lined warm-an enticing style that suggests the musical astuteness of Sheila Jordan blended with the salty panache of Anita O’Day-has in no way diminished. Trolling the fogged passages of “Tuesdays in Chinatown,” gently peeling back the tender folds of “The Very Thought of You”, softly plumbing the elegant regret of Cole Porter’s “After You,” or suggesting a female Sinatra as she meanders through O’Day’s cheeky barroom anthem, “Waiter Make Mine Blues,” Cooke consistently proves the long wait has been more than worthwhile.
Christopher Loudon, JazzTimes, March, 2009
IT’S ALWAYS YOU
Harlemwood Records, 253 W 138th Street, New York, NY 10030.
It’s Always You; Too Close For Comfort; The Very Thought of You;I Will Wait For You; Tuesdays in Chinatown; Answer Me; Waiter Make Mine Blues; When A Woman Loves A Man; I Want To Talk About You; Take Me In Your Arms; Meet Me Where They Play The Blues; After You.
PERSONNEL: Lainie Cooke, vocals; Cameron
Brown, bass; Roland Barber, trombone; Tedd Firth,piano; Marvin Horne, guitar; Joel Frahm, sax; Matt Wilson, drums.
By Bob Gish
Here’s a delightful assembly of musicians holding forth on a cool dozen ditties new and old. It’s a winning CD all around: Lainie Cooke’s vocals are smooth and comforting, filled with that old heartache blues feeling (e.g., check out “When A Woman Loves a Man” as a kind of epitome of how to sing a torch song). This is so whether she sings a ballad or swings out on tunes like “It’s Always You.” Cameron Brown supplies just the right pulse and phrasing for the first introductory phrases. After a chorus, Tedd Firth takes over establishing the fulsome jazz credentials of the group with Matt Wilson’s cymbals ringing out we’re here to play. Brown ends things appropriately enough with a few measures of goodbye.
Take “I Will Wait for You”–there’s plenty of sadness and longing in each and every word, enunciated and held in just the right way to wring out every metaphorical tear. Even, or especially, Cooke’s intermittent scatting is just right, so natural so fitting, so beautiful. Every vocalist should be so lucky to have sidemen like Brown, Firth, and Wilson. Not everyone knows the ins and outs of accompaniment, and vocalists oft en pay the price–or at times deserve a kind of carelessness from the backup personnel. Here, however, there’s more than enough mutual respect to go around and you can hear it.
Then there’s a companion “You” lyric, the familiar but always special “The Very Thought of You,” demonstrating the almost universal versatility and appeal of Noble’s perfect lyrics. Cooke’s voice here is so tender, so touching, so heartfelt that you’re convinced she truly knows the meaning of the words she so mellifluously delivers. Those words are echoed by the loving, longing lines of Joel Frahm on alto sax.
“Too Close For Comfort” has all the right punctuation and lyricism, again with the bass, drums, piano trio backing up Cooke as she struts her stuff , never missing a beat, always hitting her mark, ever strong, typically enunciating each and every word as if some kind of advocate for actually pronouncing words. She scats just enough to avoid crossing over into another mood.
“Tuesdays in Chinatown” begins with the exotic strains of Frahm’s soprano sax and sets the mood, a la a latter day Grover Washington, for the plangent narrative Cooke tells about Sammy and Billy and their train ride rendezvous in a dead end but ecstatic escape each Tuesday in China Town. It’s a variant of tunes like “Frankie and Johnny” or “Me and Mrs. Jones,” age old archetypes of illicit love. In the story, the couple engages in a slow dance away from external
responsibilities in a drawn out weekly moment. Frahm and Cooke do their own kind of slow dance–with Cooke’s forceful, full-ranged vocal lament, answered by Frahm’s obbligato lines, each note resonating more fully with the sadness of the lyric.
More musical dancing occurs with Firth’s piano accompaniment to Cooke’s slow and strong singing of “Answer Me,” a tune so worthy of the magical talents of this duet (as is the concluding tune, “After You”). Firth’s solo is simple and beautiful, just the right touch and sensibility for the lyric and for Cooke’s compelling plea. Who couldn’t answer this kind of sweet-sorrow? And…if you want some swingin’, funky trombone playin’ just order up some Roland Barber when you say “Waiter Make Mine Blues,” a kind of great foot-tappin’, happily melancholy tune that with lesser talent might go unnoticed. Here, it’s appetizer, entre, and dessert all in one. The aforementioned “When a Woman Loves A Man” is a superb confluence of lyric, vocalist, and musicianship–with Frahm’s alto sax ringing forth again, matching the downright strength of Cooke’s voice, and the mindful feeling of her singing. Eckstine’s “I Want to Talk about You” is another fine bluesy ballad, here again with Roland Barber’s trombone winning the day with purity and grace. His solo here is simply flawless: sustained beyond belief amidst sophisticated tempo changes. As for the Latin aspect of a love song . . . “Take Me In Your Arms” is so wonderfully alluring that the listener merges completely with the music, and is more or less left breathless from the strategic sighs and rhythmic syncopations, all matching a lover’s flirtations and hesitations. The final goodbye of the lyric and long held breath of Cooke is downright erotic!
Marvin Horne’s guitar and Barber’s trombone take to the fore in “Meet Me Where They Play the Blues”–just as it should be. There’s some New Orleans here with Wilson’s strong back beat and Cooke’s wailing. This lady can sing the blues. And ballads, and . . . well just about anything. So here’s to Lainie Cooke! For this reviewer “It’s always you, gal, always you!
Jazz Improv Magazine, June 2008