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Scarlet Mark by Liza Lee

The CD opens with Liza Lee slowly singing the opening line of "Strawberry Fields Forever."

Her wistful delivery creates a sense of mystery because it’s not evident where she will take you with the song. She is soon joined by the piano and a hint of drums. Lee is turning the familiar Beatles’ song into a jazz tune.

Other artists have reinvented Beatles’ songs into jazz pieces with mixed results. What makes Lee’s turn work is that she has stripped the song to its bare bones, allowing her to experiment with the pacing and a small combo to play with the melody. They create a song that’s right for a late-night club. It would fit right in next to songs by Cole Porter or Hoagy Carmichael. That’s just what Lee does on "Scarlet Mark."

The New York City-based jazz vocalist has pulled together an interesting collection of 11 numbers and made them fit into a solid, engaging package. In addition to the Beatles’ song, she tackles a tune from another iconic figure with her performance of Bob Dylan’s "Don’t Think Twice, It’s All Right." Again, she slows the tempo and pushes it into jazz territory aided by MaxJazz recording artist Bruce Barth on piano. Barth is also a co-producer of the CD along with Lee and bassist Pat O’Leary.

Lee was born and raised in Reading, Pa. Her grandfather was a jazz drummer and her grandmother, Terry Norman, was a jazz vocalist. Lee’s exposure to many genres of music shows through on the CD, which is released on her independent label, Jazz Doll records.

The singer, who has a direct and intimate style, likes to take songs not typical of a standard jazz set and give them a new retelling in a jazz format. She demonstrates her interpretive skills on songs by alt-rock singer-songwriters Ani DiFranco, "Heartbreak Even" and "Loom," and Tori Amos’ "Cornflake Girl."

The CD also includes Lee’s original "Scarlet Mark," which she wrote with O’Leary.

She mixes it up even further by showing that she can tackle more traditional material on Carmichael’s "Baltimore Oriole" and a couple of Porter tunes, "Love For Sale" and "Down In The Depths."

In one interview, Lee described herself as a straight-ahead jazz singer with a "kind of pop tone sometimes." That’s a pretty good description because she melds the two genres.

Additional Info

  • Artist / Group Name: Liza Lee
  • CD Title: Scarlet Mark
  • Genre: Jazz Vocals
  • Year Released: 2004
  • Record Label: Jazz Doll records
  • Rating: Three Stars
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