LINER NOTES By Jazz Bassist/Composer Rufus Reid
If you are reading this, I know you enjoy good music. In your hands is Life of The Music which comes three years after Lauren Hooker’s initial acclaimed release. Her first recording, Right Where I Belong startled her critics in a great way. The consensus was they could not believe she had never recorded before. Her voice is mature, rich, robust, and full of emotion that only experience can bring. There is something here for everyone’s tastes. However, I am quite sure that was not Lauren’s immediate concern, but only to tell her story of her experiences. This recording is, simply, as the title suggests, a glimpse into her life through her own music and musical influences. There are four gems from the American Songbook and seven strong originals by Lauren to make up a well-balanced program for this superb recording. The listener receives a close-up view of Lauren Hooker’s broad musical scope and fine musicianship. She surrounds herself with seasoned world-class instrumentalists who make the collaboration spectacular . Multi-instrumentalist, Scott Robinson, pianist, Jim Ridl, bassist, Martin Wind and bassist/cellist, Mike Richmond, drummer, percussionist, Tim Horner, and guitarist, John Hart, embrace her like your favorite house slippers. The arrangements of each song have an interesting twist and are well executed. There are toe-tapping grooves like Love Me Or Leave Me, to the thought provoking original Hooker title tune Life of The Music, and Joni Mitchell’s Song To a Seagull. The CD title, Life of the Music/Your Music Brings Out The Poetry In Me, is a powerful collaboration with poet Jeanette Curtis Rideau and Lauren’s music. It is clear to me that both of these creative individuals speak to one another on another level. The groove and mood is reminiscent of the John Coltrane group of the mid ‘60s. Listen how Scott Robinson’s solo sings on the soprano saxophone. In my opinion, this is definitely where the core of Lauren Hooker really is. If That’s What You Feel glides along with a Brazilian medium Samba groove. This melody is sing-able all the way. Scott’s trumpet solo is amazing. Yes, he also plays the flute obbligato as well. Jim Ridl solos beautifully with a rhythmic flair before Lauren returns with the lyric, ending with a unison shout and a collective festive improvisation. You will be compelled to revisit this one,to be sure. Love Me Or Leave Me opens with a strong Blakey-ish shuffle groove from jump-street. Lauren’s rendering of this chestnut is confident and free spirited. I love her loose, laid back, and extremely clear phrasing. The band swings hard and Scott Robinson’s meaty solo soars with long beautiful lyrical lines. This one will make your head “bob” from beginning to end. I Am Doing Very Well is an original ballad by Lauren Hooker. The melody and mood depict pain, heartbreak, and hopeful recovery of romantic relationships that most of us can relate to very well. Song To A Seagull is a Joni Mitchell classic sung with true respect to the song and the composer. If you have ever sat by the sea or lake in total solitude, you are aware of the visions that the words suggest. Close your eyes and allow Lauren and the music transport you there. Mike Richmond’s cello sound adds that breeze in the air. I Lied is another Hooker original that tells a poignant story. This one could possibly become a popular tune with an easy funky groove aided by John Hart’s solo on acoustic guitar. Lauren’s voice takes on a totally different color and sound as she glides in her upper register. The classic Spring Is Here is treated as a lilting jazz waltz. This harmonically clever arrangement is the collaboration between Lauren and master guitarist, Vic Juris. The rhythm section swings propelled by Tim Horner’s great cymbal beat. Bassist Martin Wind shines with his lyrical solo outing followed by Scott’s bird-like flute solo. Jim’s piano solo is appropriately buoyant leading back to Lauren’s out chorus. Another Hooker original composition, Countin’ On The Blues, truly showcases her vocal dexterity with some “barbecue sauce” wrapped around her vocal cords to make this rhythm and blues tune jump out at you. The horn backgrounds and groove established is very authentic and will keep your feet and head moving! Hey This Is Me is another original tune that can easily become a “pop” tune. I am totally impressed how the band transforms into the appropriate backdrop accompaniment to simply allow this infectious groove to flow. This is where Lauren’s experience and musical influences shine through. Walkin’ On Down The Line is in a “Funk” groove that tells another life story. Here again, the band really takes care of serious business. John Hart’s guitar begins to scream while Martin Wind’s electric bass and Tim Horner’s drums just rock! Leonard Bernstein’s composition, Some Other Time, gives Lauren the vehicle to be patient in rendering this beautiful melody and lyric with only bass and guitar. John Hart and Mike Richmond’s improvisations are sculpted beautifully. Lauren Hooker’s voice possesses a myriad of colors that successfully embraces this ambitious and eclectic program. The musicians where chosen for their incredible expertise. The result is a wonderful pairing of creative individuals making great music! Brava Lauren Hooker! Enjoy repeated listening. I certainly have.
LAUREN HOOKER helps to continue the tradition of great jazz singing. Awarded Honorable Mention as one of AllAboutJazz-New York's selected Best CDs in ’07 for her debut CD: “Right Where I Belong”, critics from across the nation and abroad have compared her sound to that of Dianne Reeves, Nancy Wilson, Sarah Vaughan and Dinah Washington, but with a style uniquely her own. Known throughout the NY metropolitan area as a vocalist, instrumentalist, composer, lyricist, educator, producer and storyteller, she performs regularly as a pianist/vocalist, as well as a stand up vocalist with some of the best musicians in the business.
Of her latest release: "Life of the Music" on Miles High Records (Fall 2010), Rufus Reid writes in his liner notes: Lauren Hooker’s voice possesses a myriad of colors that successfully embrace this ambitious and eclectic program. Her voice is mature, rich, robust, and full of emotion that only experience can bring… a close-up view of Lauren’s broad musical scope and fine musicianship… a superb recording. In regards to her debut CD, Christopher Loudon from JAZZ TIMES says ...undeniably impressive… certainly imaginative… can hold her own against pretty much any singer-songwriter in the business… ability to add lyrics to instrumental classics… is flat-out masterful… and George Harris, All About Jazz LA states… Here’s a vocalist that is going to knock you off your chair... hits a double off the wall. Her voice-rich, confident and assured - pitch perfect… her timing, sense of swing - absolutely impeccable, can take a lyric and mold it like clay.
Lauren has been featured in many venues in New York City including Enzo’s Jazz Room at the Jolly Madison Hotel, Smoke Jazz and Supper Club and The International Women in Jazz Festival, as well as in New Jersey at the Puffin Cultural Forum, Barron Art Center, Trumpets and The Summer Jazz Café Series at The Two Rivers Theater. She has performed and/or recorded with some of the best in the business including Mal Waldron, Rufus Reid, Allen Farnham, Vic Juris, Bucky Pizzarelli and Reggie Workman to name a few and has appeared on numerous radio and television stations, most recently in all five boroughs on BCAT filmed live at the "Brooklyn Sings, Brooklyn Swings Series". Her jazz repertoire highlights her three octave range and features original compositions as well as instrumental standards set to her own lyrics and arrangements.
Artist’s statement: I was born into music ... hearing my dad jam with his fellow jazz musicians in the basement ... starting piano lessons at age four ... meeting Bill Evans at the Vanguard whom my father recorded with in college ... being exposed to and singing most of the major oratorios by age fifteen ... shaking hands with Duke Ellington and Dave Brubeck whose sacred works my dad's chorus, the New Jersey Schola Cantorum, performed ... reaching for Sarah Vaughan's range, Ella's scat, Miles Davis' tone and Coltrane's intention. I was not only encouraged, but expected to be a musician, and a well-rounded one at that ... one who could compose, play, sing, arrange and educate.
A former music teacher at the acclaimed Bank Street School in NYC, Lauren is dedicated to the education of young and old alike, conducting jazz vocal workshops, teacher training symposiums, group music classes as well as private piano lessons in her home studio in Teaneck. She also performs in schools, libraries, museums and festivals via her Arts in Education Company: Musical Legends, LLC which she founded in 1993, teaching cultures through the arts and arts through the cultures and is currently working on a television/internet series for children entitled “You Can Do It Too with Ms. Lauren”.
For more info visit Artist’s website: www.laurenhooker.com