Texas-based singer Laura Ainsworth has a secret identity.
By day, she creates witty one-liners and parody songs heard on top radio shows worldwide. But by night, she slides into the spotlight in her trademark elbow-length gloves and sequined gowns, and with her beguiling, nearly-three-octave voice, she brings back the golden days of such great supper club performers as Keely Smith, Julie London and Peggy Lee. Her sound is not modern jazz or cabaret, but a unique mixture of new and retro that criitics are raving over. The Dallas Morning News calls her voice "sublime," JazzCorner.com says she "weaves past and present with stunning power," and Jazz Inside magazine's CD critic declared, "You can keep all those pop divas, the only one for me is Laura Ainsworth."
If she's so good at bringing back the sound of classic supper club jazz, that's because it's in her DNA. Laura's late father was renowned big band sax and clarinet player and arranger Bill Ainsworth, who played behind Frank Sinatra at just 17. Decades later, Laura spent her girlhood watching her dad accompany Tony Bennett, Mel Torme and her idol, Ella Fitzgerald, and thinking, “That’s what I want to do!”
Combining her talents for writing and singing and her lifelong grounding in mid-century music, Laura Ainsworth creates and stages her own live shows that combine the retro look of classic nightclub shows of the past with a modern twist. Her rich, emotional but perfectly controlled vocals have attracted rave reviews ("A fine singer with outstanding range and genuine wit" -- BroadwayWorld.com) , as well as outstanding accompanists, led by longtime partner, Brian Piper. One of the most sought-after jazz pianists/producers in the Southwest, Piper has backed such greats as Mabel Mercer and Cab Calloway, and was recently named “2011 Dallas Jazz Musician of the Year.”
Now, the magic they create on stage has finally been captured in the studio with Laura Ainsworth's debut CD, “Keep It To Yourself” (Eclectus Records). Produced and arranged by Brian Piper and featuring his ace modern jazz trio as the core band, the album ranges from contemporary tunes, like the hilarious female revenge fantasy title track and a cool, spacy lounge take on the Marshall Crenshaw rocker, "Fantastic Planet of Love," to fresh new twists on standards such as “Love For Sale,” “Midnight Sun” (her tribute to Ella) and a “La Vie En Rose” that begins as a lush, French ballad before lifting off into hot, ‘30’s Parisian jazz, complete with virtuoso violin by Milo Deering of the hot jazz/bluegrass fusion group, Beatlegras.
And then, there are the delightfully obscure gems that only a musical archeologist like Laura would know. Piper says, “Even I was unfamiliar with a few of the tunes she chose. But I loved every one of them, and Laura captures them perfectly.” They include a swinging ditty about the woes of dating called “That’s The Kind of Guy I Dream Of (You Should See The Kind That I Get),” last heard as a Betty Hutton B-side in 1952, and a modern take on Helen Kane’s innocent 1928 hit, “He’s So Unusual,” that reveals a surprising and humorous twist in light of today’s frank sexual mores.
But perhaps the standout track is Laura's haunting rendition of the Hoagy Carmichael/Johnny Mercer classic, “Skylark.” While the entire CD shuns modern studio wizardry, “Skylark” was truly recorded the old-fashioned way: live in a single take with jazz guitarist Chris Derose, a favorite of Michael Feinstein, Willie Nelson and Patti Austin. There are no edits or Autotuning and none needed, no clichéd vocal gymnastics to detract from the lyrics. There is just the irresistible combination of a great singer, instrumentalist and song, all coming together to move the soul.
That's the feeling listeners will rediscover when they hear Laura Ainsworth's amazing new album, “Keep It To Yourself.”