Judy Chamberlain’s own Road Trip started in the 1950’s in New York City, where she was regularly in attendance at an early age at the Broadway shows, clubs and society hangouts of the day, probably as a “cover” for her party-loving aunts. “It was a magical time,” she says.
These days, as one of the busiest and most popular jazz singers and event producers in Southern California, Chamberlain is still observing life and making magic, most recently with this, her long-overdue and beautifully-crafted album of some of the songs she loves to sing. Working live in the studio, she and pianist Bill Cunliffe, guitarist Ron Eschete, bassist Ben May and drummer Dave Tull have captured the essence of at least five decades of sophisticated jazz. Theirs is a style that hints slyly at the past; you’ll recognize the elegant “society bounce” on George Gershwin’s “Soon,” the understated bop of Bobby Troup’s “Route 66” and the mid-Twentieth Century romantic innocence of Henry Mancini’s “Two For The Road.” Cunliffe’s lush piano playing on “With A Song In My Heart” is an art one seldom hears in tandem with a voice as pure and eloquent as Judy’s.
Since settling in Southern California in 1980, Chamberlain, a prolifically published lifestyle and food writer, has been featured in numerous radio and TV segments including her own production, the award-winning “Savoire Fare” restaurant series on the Orange County News Channel. Musically, in addition to being a singer, bandleader and entertainer, she is an important force behind the scenes in putting swinging jazz into a variety of venues. Her true love is the deep interior of the great American songbook and she is heard in delicious form throughout Road Trip, a collection of 13 favorites from her more than four thousand tune repertoire.
With the writer’s gift for telling a story, Chamberlain takes the listener on a timeless, lovely journey that is meant to be savored with dinner and a good bottle of wine, or enjoyed on a leisurely drive up the coast, wherever that coast may be.
— Scott Yanow, author of “Swing, Bebop,
Afro-Cuban Jazz, Trumpet Kings and Classic Jazz”
AMG REVIEW: A talented singer based in Southern California, Judy Chamberlain has a warm voice, a versatile yet consistently swinging style, and the ability to bring out fresh meaning in even the most familiar lyrics. For her long overdue debut recording, Road Trip, she is joined by a particularly strong rhythm section. Bill Cunliffe (on piano and organ) and guitarist Ron Eschete are among the best in their field, contributing concise and tasteful solos along with subtle support. Bassist Benjamin May is excellent, particularly when playing bowed on "Mona Lisa," where he harmonizes with Chamberlain's voice, while drummer Dave Tull offers a steady pulse and effective support. However the main star throughout is the singer, who is heard in joyful form on "Just You, Just Me," "Route 66," and "Stompin' at the Savoy" while being highly expressive on such ballads as "How Deep Is the Ocean," "You're My Thrill," and a haunting "Mona Lisa." This is wonderful swing-oriented singing and should appeal to a wide audience. -- Scott Yanow
“A sunny day at Playboy Jazz’s
free community event”
Don Heckman, Special to The Times, Los Angeles Times (June 12, 2007)
...singer Judy Chamberlain — backed by a band showcasing the guitar of Jim Fox
and the saxophone and clarinet of Terry Harrington — sang a remarkably eclectic
set. Ranging with ease from the warm-toned ballads of the Great American Songbook
to a high-spirited romp through “Jailhouse Rock,” she affirmed her status as
one of the Southland’s most versatile jazz vocalists.
JUDY CHAMBERLAIN REVIEW
by Scott Yanow
All Music Guide
Imagine starting a song without counting off the tempo or even telling one’s sidemen the name of the tune. Jazz singer/bandleader Judy Chamberlain, who has mastered the art of mesmerizing both the audience and her own band, does that regularly with her group without a moment’s hesitation. The results are both spontaneous and memorable.
A New York City native who spent her childhood shuttling between homes in Manhattan and Connecticut, Chamberlain has had careers along the way as a radio/TV commentator and lifestyle columnist but always sang, becoming a professional when she was 13. After moving to southern California in 1980, she established herself as a popular performer whose 4,000-song repertoire ranges from the Great American Songbook to swing and vintage rock & roll. She also oversees the extensive jazz program at the famed Spazio in Los Angeles, produces a noteworthy annual summer concert series in the courtyard of the Kodak Theater in Hollywood, and serves as artistic director for the KKJZ Los Angeles International Jazz Festival.
Judy Chamberlain, who maintains a busy performance schedule putting on critically acclaimed and highly entertaining shows including her own unique “Swinging Jazz Salute to Frank Sinatra,” has thus far recorded one CD, Road Trip.
JAZZ CRITIC’S CHOICE
Los Angeles City Beat
by Kirk Silsbee
One of the first things you notice about singer Judy Chamberlain is the breadth of material she has at her disposal. A Nat Cole trifle — “Frim Fram Sauce” — and the wistful “Spring Is Here” rub shoulders with the forgotten Henry Mancini theme “Two for the Road.” She can also answer a request for Nat’s “L.O.V.E.” or Goffin and King’s girlish query “Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow?” She can essay these disparate tunes with nary a glance at her lyric binder, and that clues you to her longevity as a performer.
A native New Yorker, she began singing as a teenager in venues frequented by Capote, Warhol, and Dali. Chamberlain was a favored up-and-comer in some of the finer boîtes, where she learned her craft, singing standards with good rhythm sections. She presently has a stellar unit with pianist Bill Cunliffe, bassist Benjamin May, and drummer Dave Tull. Her home base is Spazio (where she performs Saturday), and, although it’s a restaurant first and a music venue second, Chamberlain gamely handles the distractions and manages to turn heads.
Not many singers can pull the verse of “As Time Goes By” out of their back pockets or pull the pickup of “Never Let Me Go” out of the air and know that the band will be underneath them with no prior signals. Not many have the taste to sing the bridge of Cole Porter’s signature “Night and Day” with only an arco bass accompaniment. These are nice touches, and they only occur when all of the musical elements are in the right place.
Judy Chamberlain Quintet at Spazio
by Scott Yanow
LA Jazz Scene
Judy Chamberlain must be channeling Miles Davis. She plays to the talents of her musicians, offering them an exciting environment in which to shine. There are no set lists. No rehearsals, no discussions. No calling out of keys, or counting off tempos. Head arrangements emanate from the bandstand as if by magic. Sometimes Chamberlain simply takes the pickup, singing a line or a riff, her musicians instantly following her subtle cues. It’s a challenge, and one they clearly enjoy.
At a Chamberlain performance, it’s hard to tell who’s having more fun, the musicians or the audience. Other emotions surface as well, sometimes unexpectedly. Chamberlain is a skilled and sensitive tour guide, a real jazz singer who uses texture and color to weave a highly entertaining spell.
The bandleader recently brought her brand of magic to Spazio, joined by pianist Tony Campodonico, sax/clarinet doubler Terry Harrington, drummer Ramon Banda and longtime associate Benjamin May on bass for a night of standards and obscurities. Cheered on by an enthusiastic crowd, Chamberlain’s lovely voice, wide range and versatile repertoire made for a memorable night of music.
On this particular evening, her selections included such songs as “What A Little Moonlight Can Do,” “Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow,” “Body And Soul,” “Brazil,” “The Joint Is Jumping,” “A Night In Tunisia,” “Putting On The Ritz,” “La Vie En Rose,” the Barry Manilow/Johnny Mercer ballad “When October Goes” and a few dozen other selections. The music, drawn from most of the past nine decades, always swung with Chamberlain’s impeccable time and expressive phrasing.
Terry Harrington, who sometimes sounded like Zoot Sims on tenor, was equally fluent on clarinet. The rhythm section was tight and intuitive with bassist May contributing bowed bass solos that worked particularly well on “Summertime” and “Stairway To The Stars.” Directing the whole show was Ms. Chamberlain, who always paid close attention to keeping the momentum moving. She expertly varied tempos, moods and grooves, picking out songs spontaneously and singing up a storm.
Spazio has evolved into Southern California’s top jazz supper club and Judy Chamberlain is one of the finest singers around. Both should be seen often.
Los Angeles Times
December 28, 2003
by Don Heckman
The Judy Chamberlain Swing Band.... Ask Judy Chamberlain to sing your favorite song from the Great American Songbook, and you can make a safe bet that - no matter how obscure it may be -- she'll do it on the spot, usually including the rarely done verse, while adding her own gently swinging emphasis. If she doesn't know the tune, hum a few bars and there's a fair chance she'll have it ready to go for the next set. Chamberlain's easygoing interaction with her listeners transforms celebrations into marvelously spontaneous events.
Judy Chamberlain Quintet at Spazio
by Scott Yanow
LA Jazz Scene
"...a fine, articulate performer..." Don Heckman, Los Angeles Times
"...versatile, exciting, spontaneous and impressive...her sidemen have to be alert, because they never know what she's going to do next...when swing singer Judy Chamberlain is in the house, the joint is always jumpin' " Scott Yanow, LA Jazz Scene
"Heavenly-voiced singer Judy Chamberlain possesses encyclopedic knowledge of American popular music." Steve Eddy, Orange County Register
"She makes me want to laugh and cry and dance and drink martinis all night..." Ann Chattilon, Coast Magazine
"I don't know how she recalls this stuff, because she's too young." Al Rudis, Long Beach Press Telegram
"Ella-mentary Jazz!" Heather Wood, Long Beach Press Telegram