Thursday, February 21st, 2013 1:09 AM PST
Jazz & Beyond
Spoken Word & Song
Sunday, October 25th, 2009 9:46 PM PDT
Vocalist and Poet Lisa B (Lisa Bernstein) Releases
I Get A Kick: Cole Porter Reimagined
On the Jazzed Media Record Label, 1/19/18
LISA B (LISA BERNSTEIN) is a jazz singer and songwriter as well as a widely published poet and spoken word performer.
On I GET A KICK: COLE PORTER REIMAGINED, her newest CD and sixth as a leader, she applies her vocal gifts and poetic prowess to fresh interpretations of ten tunes by Cole Porter, one of the finest of the lyricists and composers (unconventionally, he was both) who created the Great American Songbook.
According to Lisa B, “My five previous CDs were largely original music, and it was time to tackle the works of another songwriter. I was always drawn to Cole Porter’s writing, and I’ve been singing his tunes in my live performances for years.
In his lyrics and his shifting, major-to-minor harmonies, you can hear a dual nature. He was an outsider and a high society partygoer, a gay man in a closeted era, a breezy wit perfectly crafting up-to-the-minute, amusing lyrics who could pivot to expressing powerful longing and sadness. I guess I’m attracted to these tensions – his suffering soul, and his charm.”
Lisa B chose to record ten songs Porter composed for stage and screen between 1929 and 1954. Although many jazz singers have sung and recorded Porter’s tunes, Lisa B set out to present them in adventurous ways while still hewing to the essences of the lyrics and music.
I GET A KICK: COLE PORTER REIMAGINED is stylistically diverse, offering a new arrangement of each song spanning bebop, beguine, bossa, ballads, sultry funk, and more.
As for the lyrics, each tune includes almost all of Cole Porter’s words, from the introductory verses to the choruses to the once-censored parts. Plus, Lisa B adds her original improvised vocalese on two tracks and spoken word segments on three others.
In the 1950s, some poets gave public readings accompanied by jazz music. Lisa B turns that paradigm on its head, with her spoken word passages creating a genre-bending, multidimensional effect.
It was important for Lisa B to work with musicians who are particularly attuned to lyrics and vocal performance, so she invited some of the top San Francisco Bay Area players with these affinities to join her.
Chief among them is JAMES GARDINER, who has garnered two Grammy nominations and 42 gold and platinum designations. Gardiner is Lisa B’s long-time collaborator, co-producer, co-arranger, and engineer, having worked with her on her five previous recordings.
The other musicians are Ben Flint and Frank Martin (keyboard), Fred Randolph and Troy Lampkins (bass), Jeff Marrs, Alan Hall, and Paul Van Wageningen (drums), Michael Zilber (tenor and soprano sax), and John Santos (percussion), all busy touring artists with international reputations.
Lisa B opens the CD with “I Get a Kick Out of You,” accompanied by bass and drums only. Staying true to her vision, she adds a new dimension to the widely recorded tune not only via the spare uptempo arrangement but also by interspersing her original vocalese.
She moves to a snappy samba version of “Easy to Love” complete with all of Cole Porter’s pithy choruses.
Next, Lisa B prefaces a thoughtful version of “I Happen to Like New York” with her spoken word sequence “Sonia & Solomon” about her immigrant grandparents who landed in the Big Apple in 1923.
The rarely recorded, dreamy waltz “Wake Up and Dream” follows (perhaps Porter’s gayest composition).
Next is an intense, erotic reading of “In the Still of the Night” with soprano sax and a rhythmic Randy Weston-inspired flavor.
What follows is an emotionally raw, musically stripped-down ballad rendition of “Ev’ry Time We Say Goodbye.”
She performs “What Is This Thing Called Love?” as a beguine, inserting a spoken word section into the middle of the song in which she answers the question posed by the title.
The exotic funk of “Night and Day” and “All of You,” and between them, a yearning bossa treatment of “You’d Be So Nice to Come Home To,” close the record.
Throughout, Lisa B displays not only the sensitivity and deep reading one would expect from an accomplished writer in her own right, but also the musical inventiveness and artistic freedom that only a top-notch jazz performer can harness.
BIO FOR LISA B
Jazz singer and songwriter Lisa B (Lisa Bernstein) performs standards and originals, often interwoven with her spoken poetry. Critics have pointed to her focus on innovation (“an originator,” “daring and deft”) as well as to her gifts of interpretation (“mesmerizing, ” “a beautiful voice,” “makes lyrics sound like truth”).
Poetry and jazz have always been a part of Lisa B’s life. Her mother wrote poetry, and her father was a serious aficionado of avant-garde jazz who counted among his friends a number of well-known jazz musicians. Jackie McLean was a close family friend, and Lisa B remembers sitting on Elvin Jones’ lap at a party at their family home. In the mid-sixties, her young parents hired the Art Ensemble of Chicago to perform at the neighborhood elementary school.
As a child, Lisa B studied classical piano and was steeped in jazz – in particular, her parents’ favorites Carmen McRae and John Coltrane – as well as R&B and musical theater. But as an adult, her first forays into live performance were public readings of her own poetry.
As her poems began appearing in important literary journals, and a book of her work was published by the prestigious Wesleyan University Press, Lisa B found that standing up alone before an audience with just her own words was powerful training in performance. Dedicating herself to the art of jazz singing – while still incorporating poetry into her shows – was a natural progression.
So it’s no surprise that Lisa B lists as her key musical influences not only Coltrane and McRae, but also the bedrock of the Great American Songbook; vocal jazz pioneers Sheila Jordan, Jeanne Lee, and Lambert, Hendricks & Ross; melders of jazz, poetry, and soul Gil Scott-Heron and Jill Scott; and two who show us how to testify in both music and verse, Aretha Franklin and Allen Ginsberg.
Lisa B has performed at more than 80 venues in the San Francisco Bay Area, New York, Los Angeles, and elsewhere. Lisa B's five previous full-length CDs, released between 1999 and 2011, received radio play and charting on hundreds of trade-reporter stations and excellent reviews in All Music Guide, Jazz Times, Jazziz, the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, the Philadelphia Daily News, and many other publications. Her sixth CD, "I Get A Kick: Cole Porter Reimagined," will be released January 19, 2018 on the esteemed Jazzed Media label, home of such Grammy nominees as Phil Woods and Lorraine Feather.
Her poems have appeared in more than 60 literary magazines and anthologies, and her poetry book The Transparent Body was published by the prestigious Wesleyan University Press. She continues to write and publish poetry for the page, with recent publications in Caliban and War, Literature & the Arts. She earned master's and bachelor's degrees in English literature/creative writing from San Francisco State and UC Santa Cruz, respectively. She also received creative writing fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts, Headlands Center for the Arts, Ucross Foundation, Barbara Deming Memorial Fund/Money for Women, and Puffin Foundation.
Lisa B has taught classes on mind-body-spirit tools for performers and on creative writing at San Francisco State University, Foothill College, Skyline College, the Jazzschool (now California Jazz Conservatory), and Blue Bear School of Music.
A resident of Oakland, Calif., for more than two decades, Lisa B was nominated for a 2014 Oakland Indie Award. Her celebration of Oakland includes her music video “Holiday in Oakland,” which went viral locally. She is also active in her community, focusing on teaching poetry-writing and performance to young people through Parks & Recreation, the Boys & Girls Club, and public schools. She works not only as a singer but also as a professional psychic.
Sign up for Lisa B's mailing list for record release news, gigs, and goodies!
Lisa has released five full-length CDs on her own Piece of Pie Records, with a new record out Jan. 19, 2018 on the Jazzed Media label:
* I GET A KICK: COLE PORTER REIMAGINED (JAZZED MEDIA 1/19/18)
* CHRISTMAS TIME IS HERE (AND CHANUKAH AND THE SOLSTICE) (2011)
* THE POETRY OF GROOVE (2009)
* WHAT'S NEW, PUSSYCAT?: TUNES & TALES ABOUT COOL CATS (2006)
* CENTER OF THE RHYME (2003)
* FREE ME FOR THE JOY (1999)
“Lisa Bernstein's mix of spoken word poetry...and passionate jazzy, high-register vocalizing is …hard to resist.” - All Music Guide
"Great pipes...talented songwriter." - Jazziz
"She totally captivated the audience. She is an originator, her arrangements are mesmerizing, and her band is great!" - Gary Hamada, Jazz and Blues Company Concert Manager/KRML-FM
“Daring, dexterous singer/songwriter/poet Lisa B...with appeal to both traditional and contemporary jazz tastes and even hip-hop hipsters.” - Jonathan Takiff, Philadelphia Daily News
“Funky, fresh and sexy as all hell...seamless blending of jazz, hip-hop, soul, spoken word and popular music... One of the most daring and deft performers I've come across in a while.” - Jordan Richardson, Blogcritics and Canadian Audiophile
“It is her gift that she manages, through the extreme clarity of her images, always to engage us.” - Booklist
“Whatever she knows or sings comes, in Whitman's term, from the body electric.” – Francis Mayes, author of Under the Tuscan Sun and other books, review in San Jose Mercury News
“Her voice is a lovely instrument, her timbre warm, her phrasing fluid, her articulation pristine, and she possesses an emotional range that makes lyrics sound like truth. She sings like the dickens.” - Ted Panken, jazz critic for Downbeat, Jazziz, and more
Sunday, October 25th, 2009 9:43 PM PDT
VIDEOS! A Mix of Single-Photo Presentations, Slideshows, and Dynamic Footage
ORIGINALS AND REIMAGININGS
Tuesday, May 22nd, 2007 3:15 AM PDT