Malborough International Jazz Festival 2008

Derek Ansell, Jazz Journal

There were, as usual, a good few vocalists, mainly female and the best jazz singing I heard all weekend, came from Laura Zakian. Laura is a straight ahead jazz vocalist who sings with a clear, attractive voice, phrases with great skill and accuracy and blends in ideally with her accompanying trio, in this case Mike Gorman, piano, Jeremy Brown, bass and Mark Fletcher, drums.

She sings mainly quality standards but varies her programme with obscure, but attractive songs from 1920 and 30s and even contemporary songs occasionally, but it always comes out sounding like good, modern jazz and I cannot understand why she is not better know and appreciated. The jazz content in her voice is high and the clarity of her words and expressive phrasing guarantee an enjoyable set each time she sings. If anyone deserves to be famous on merit and achievement to date, she does.

ABOUT LOVE

Jazz Wise Review | Peter Quinn | December 2008

On About Love: Laura Zakian once again show a fine nose for rooting out interesting and unusual contemporary material. The trio of pop songs she covers all elicit A-list performances and masterly arrangements. Despite the song's technical challenges (the melodic line sounds like a mutha to sing) 'Disney Girls' by Beach Boy Bruce Johnston illustrates Zakian's strong storytelling gifts.

The singer brings a hypnotic, incantatory quality to 'Love Junkyard', a song make famous by Rickie Lee Jones, while on 'Two Grey Rooms' - the concluding track on Joni Mitchell's Night Ride Home album - she achieves a subtle balance between ennui and obsession. Elsewhere, Zakian show her sustaining power in Day in Day Out, has a ball on the elaborately arranged 'The Gentleman Is A Dope' and loveingly caresses the lyric of 'He Was Too Good To Me'. This fine album comes to a close with a memorable take on ' I Could Have Told You'. As on her previous release, Just One Of Those Things, pianist Jim Watson is a key presence.

JUST ONE OF THOSE THINGS

The Observer | Dave Gelly | March 2004

The cover pictures Ms Zakian looking thoroughly fed up with life, but that is by no means the prevailing atmosphere of the the music. Wistful at times, yes; miserable , no. This is her second CD , and it has all the qualities of the first - rhythmic poise, a sweet, direct voice without airs and graces, and an obvious love of the material. There are some beautiful songs here, like 'whisper Not' and 'Never Let Me Go' that really deserve this kind of attention, but rarely receive it. In fact, the whole 11 - song set is scrupulously chosen. Her solo companions, trombonist Mark Bassey and saxophonist Mark Lockheart, match Laura Zakian's interpretations with complete sympathy, while pianist Jim Watson is the kind of accompanist that singers dream about.

EuroclubdeJazz | Mike Cook | March 2004

This record is the best I've heard for many a moon with Laura's flawless articulation and ability to put any kind of song over in a style that is all her own. The pure swinging jazz has to be heard to be fully appreciated and there's little doubt that the radio stations will be playing some of these numbers non-stop. It not only Laura's voice. She has a musically immaculate backing group with pianist Jim Watson who comes from the same mould as Oscar Peterson - he really is that good. Together with bass man Simon Thorpe and drummer Matt Home, some of the finest players on the contempaory jazz scene, you could be forgiven for thinking you were being transported back ot an Oscar and Ella concert - minus Ella.

This is Laura's long awaited follow-up to the critically acclaimed debut album Nobody Else But Me, but it is certainly worth the wait. She sings like a swallow, her voice soaring and diving, covering a number of standards in her own inimitable style - and what style, grace, sophistication and application. Just listen to the opening track of 'East of the Sun' and you will be hooked. Her wildly spontaneous 'Devil May Care' reveals her voice can cope with any idiom. You want blues? try 'Billy's Blues'. There's a 'tribute' to Mae West (she's and actress for those too young to know) in 'Peel Me A Grape' and how often has a Noel Coward song - 'Mad About The Boy' - appeared on a jazz album?

Her vocals are simply amazing and she doesn't always sing well-know songs. She's equally relaxed and billiant on such numbers as 'My Ideal' and 'Whisper Not'.

She is joined with above backing group by Mark Bassy (tb) and Mark Lockheart (ts&ss). They too, are an asset to the record which, to use the old cliché, is a must have disc. All contemporary jazz fans should have this in their collection.

Jazz Wise | Peter Quinn | May 2004

Laura Zakain made herself a lot of new friends with her warmly received 2001 debut Nobody Else But Me, managing to carve a distinctive niche in what has become a bewilderingly overcrowded scene. Repeating the successful formula of the debut - juxtaposing perennial favourites (East Of the Sun, Devil May Care) with fresh takes on some well worn classics (Mad About The Boy, Just One Of Those Things, Peel Me A Grape) as well as more contemporary material (Laura Nyro's Billy's Blues) - Just One of Those Things will undoubtedly win her a whole host of new fans. A vocal tutor at Trinity College of Music, Zakian swings effortlessly, combines a lightness of touch with a deep reservoir of power and control and - most importantly - always draws the listener in to the song's lyric. With this singer nothing ever seems laboured or overblown. The album benefits enormously from the deft textural embellishments provided by Mark Bassey (the only survivor from the debut lineup) and Mark Lockheart. The former's doleful interjections in a markedly personal take on Made About The Boy and the latter's soprano wrapping around the vocal line in a superb reading of the Mercer/Allen tune Out Of This World are standout moments.

Jazz Journal International | Bruce Crowther | July 2004

Regular readers will have seen Derek Ansell's interview with Zakian in last month's issue of JJI (SEE THE "ABOUT" PAGE) and so I need not waste space on her background. Zakian has a clear, deep and ringing vocal sound. She has a relaxed sense of swing and there is an appealing freshness to her take on the songs, almost all of which are familiar although almost none is overdone. Even an overly familiar song such as Just One Of Those Things is given a surprisingly slow tempo that suits Zakian and the trio admirably. Six of the titles are arranged by Zakian and Melling, another two by Melling alone, the rest by Zakian and the core trio; about them all is a real sense of group endeavour rather than simply singer and accompaniment, a quality that immediately adds points.

All the instrumentalist present are afforded solo space, notably Watson, whose touch is elegant on ballads and swinging everywhere. Lockheart's soprano is effective on Out Of This World as is his tenor on Like Someone In Love, and Bassey not only contributes nice solos, on My Ideal for example, but also here and there provides an effective obbligato to Zakian's vocal lines. Dave Frishberg's Peel Me A Grape is given a pleasing workout with Thorpe laying down a robustly rocking beat from the start and also taking a good solo. Home is always discreetly supportive, his brush and cymbal work being especially attractive as he builds a plangent background to the proceedings. A song I have not heard before is Laura Nyro's Billy's Blues, and while I am not wild about the lyric, melodically it is very satisfying. Never Let Me Go, is pensive in lyric and melody and ends the set in an appropriately reflective mood. Altogether then, a very effective album by a singer we are sure to hear a lot more from in the future.

The Friends Of Good Songs will like this one. Good sound. The note is by Ansell and is all that you would expect from him. Recommended.

NOBODY ELSE BUT ME

The Observer - CD of the Week | Dave Gelly | July 2001

An impressive debut album from this young singer. The female vocal scene has become quite crowded of late, but she has the style and personality to make a mark. Zakian can make a melody swing without beating it into submission first, and sings with a smile on her face - a pleasant relief after some of the doom-laden tones one hears so often these days. Her accompanying quartet features that excellent pianist Steve Melling and trombonist Mark Bassey, a superb, witty player and one to watch out for in the near future.

Jazz Review | Chris Sheridan | May 2001

Making an impact as a jazz singer is as hard as doing so as a tenor saxophone player - the competition, particularly for women, is so intense that hardly a month goes by without several new thrushes chirping on the bough. Though not as intensely individual as, say Patricia Barber or Abbey Lincoln, Miss Zakian debuts with a clear conception of how to phrase a lyric with subtle swing and rhythmic elasticity - and how to express an emotion without over-egging the pudding. Twisted a la Annie Ross stretches her range a bit, but there is compensation in performances like Day By Day, the touching Company and the haunting rumba treatment of If I should Lose You. Mark Bassey's feisty trombone is an important additional voice, providing lively solos as well as textural contrast, but it is Zakian who puts the cream in the coffee.

Q | Rob Beattie | June 2001

Genteel debut from Pizza-On-The-Park favourite and jazz festival grafter.

Attendees of Laura Zakian's singing classes - hey, jazz performers make their living as they can - must marvel at her technique which has a sweet, poppy accessibility, but also the confidence to explore the barmier regions of the genre. Ably accompanied by Steve Melling (piano), Richard Jeffries (bass), Russell Morgan (drums) and Mark Bassey (trombone) most of whom back her live, this is an outward-looking repertoire:jazz without frightening the horses. Thus, alongside cool interpretations of standards such as The Touch Of Your Lips and If I should Lose You there's also Tom Waits's Broken Bicycles, and a marvelous, sinuous version of Ricki Lee Jones's Company. Delightful.

Newbury Weekly News - Malborough International Jazz Festival | Derek Ansell | July 2001

Star-billing on this evening however must go to Laura Zakian whose clear, vibrant and wide-ranging voice was put to excellent use demonstrating how effective real jazz singing can be. She knows the language of jazz inside out and has the vocal dexterity to express it. Laura was well served by the splendid trio of Neil Angilley (piano), Sam Burgess (bass) and Russell Morgan (drums). What I want to know is, why haven't I heard this lady before?

Focus Magazine | Caroline Elliott | October 2001

On this satin-finish first from one of Blighty's most vivacious jazz vocalists, Zakian administers her impressive range and inspired arrangements to a clever mix of songs that avoids the usual well-known numbers. There are tasty morsels for jazzsters and dabblers alike: from the finger-clicking opener Touch of Your Lips, through the zany Nobody Else But Me to Tom Waits' melancholic Broken Bicycles and the smooth finale This is Always. It'll make you want to grab a whisky soda, light a cigar and lounge in a dark bar.

The Musician | Brian Blain | December 2001

Laura Zakian's CD shows just why she is beginning to make a mark in the very tough, overcrowded, world of female jazz, or jazz-influenced singers. She delivers an excellent programme of songs which haven't been done to death with that elusive blend of understatement and power which speaks of someone who has really mastered the craft. Go to You're Looking at Me for a slow and meaningful but far from maudlin example of the genre, or Day by Day for relaxed easy swing. The rhythm section: Steve Melling (pno) Russell Morgan (dms) is excellent and bassist Richard Jeffries really 'walks' with a full, gorgeous sound. Last but far from least Mark Bassey who with his slightly buzzing Knepper-like sound and melodic flow of ideas, reveals himself as one of our top trombone players. An outstanding vocal CD

Newbury Weekly News - reviewing the Malborough International Jazz Festival | Derek Ansell | July 2002

For the second year running, the surprise of the evening and easily the best jazz heard anywhere, came from singer Laura Zakian and the superb trio of Steve Melling, piano, Simon Thorpe, bass and drummer Russell Morgan. Ms Zakian's sophisticated delivery, flawless articulation and ability to put any type of song over and still make is come out as pure swinging jazz has be be heard to be fully appreciated. She can caress any lyric without excess volume or unnecessary emphasis and always tells a story. And it is not just jazz standards like Benny Golson's 'Whisper Not' that get the full treatment, although that one was probably her best single performance. The trio supported her magnificently.

Jazz Journal | Derek Ansell | November 2002

I first heard Ms Zakian at the 2001 Malborough Jazz Festival and thought she was the best jazz singer I'd heard in a very long time. Her performance at the same venue this year and the music on this CD, her first, confirms everything with performances that are, if anything, even better. She always sings the complete lyrics to her selected material and has a way of phrasing and accenting certain notes that make sure everything she sings comes out as jazz. Laura's voice is clear and resonant and she never resorts to high volume for effect as so many vocalist do. She is that rare animal, a genuine jazz singer who uses her voice as a musical instrument and improvises and reshapes melodic lines to put a song over effectively.

Singing of this standard requires the best in accompaniment and that is precisely what she receives from Melling, Jeffries and Morgan, with trombonist Mark Bassey adding additional colour on several tracks. Melling's sonorous accompaniment and individualistic solos are a special bonus here. Add the muscle and accurate note placement of Jeffries on bass and Morgan's mastery of the almost lost art of wire brush playing and you have a superb jazz album. These musicians swing, collectively and individually at all times on these eleven selections.

Lesser know pieces like Gentleman Friend and Broken Bicycles sound good as Ms Zakian sings them and will soon become familiar if you play them as many times as I have already, but she really comes into her own on standards like If I Should Loose You and she is terrific on Wardell Gray's blues line Twisted with the lyrics made famous by Annie Ross.

Satin smooth vocal delivery, subtle but highly effective if not downright seductive reading of a lyric and a laid back swing, all these attributes are in evidence and you can add on a superb instrumental quartet. It all adds up to a dynamic jazz disc and it will be one of my top ten at the end of the year. Very highly recomended.

General Reviews

About Love

Just One of Those Things

Nobody Else But Me