All music derives from song, the voice, being the first instrument of all, and jazz is no exception. Jazz Musicians seek their own sound, a distinctive quality, a recognizable character, a voice, with much the same meaning as that given to it by poets.
So, its not surprising that Janis Siegel one of the most distinctly compelling jazz singers on the scene, with a quality that can’t be bought or borrowed, faked, or sold.
Start with Carole King and Gerry Goffins’ "Go Away Little Boy." Add elements from Barry Mann and Cynthia Weil’s "Just a Little Lovin,’" and a dash of Pat Ballard’s "Mr. Sandman." Then add on a jazz vocal mixture of Nancy Wilson’s version of "The Masquerade Is Over," Dakota Staton’s "The Late, Late Show," Etta Jones’ "Don’t Go to Strangers," Gloria Lynn’s "I Wish You love," Dinah Washington’s "Where Are You?" and Miss Toni Fisher’s "The Big Hurt," and you have the deeply satisfying sounds of Siegel’s latest album, "I Wish You Love."
"I Wish You Love" was originally conceived as an album in which a jazz spin would be given to pop hits from the Brill Building era. Siegel, long time member of Manhattan Transfer, is a nine-time Grammy winner and seventeen-time Grammy nominee, who wrote and recorded in the Brill Building early in her career. She contributes the building as being a big part of her life.
Born and raised in Brooklyn, New York, Siegel started performing professionally at the age of twelve. She began singing with an all-girl pop trio called The Young Generation. By high school, this group had recorded two singles.
Growing up in Brooklyn was magical and musical for Siegel the exposure to Broadway theatres, Radio City, The Fox, The Paramount. Absorbing the musical wisdom from singers such as Richie Havens, Peter Paul and Mary, and the music of the underground, would have an enormous effect on the young singer.
"Aretha Franklin, Barbara Streisand and Ella Fitzgerald were my main influence," says Siegel. Motown drove me wild. Everything was stupendous. In jazz, she recalls John Coltrane as one of her musical idols, with sounds that had energy and purity.
In 1975, after being invited to join a four-part vocal group that Tim Hauser had been attempting to reconstruct, the Manhattan Transfer was born. The Group’s self-titled album ushered in a renaissance in vocal-based music and marked the opening of the foursome’s quarter-century-plus success story.
What’s all the more extraordinary is that Siegel, who has an eight-year-old son, has a solo career and continues to perform with the Manhattan Transfer. "This requires a lot of jugging," said Siegel. "My son is the joy of my life. He’s been traveling with me since he was three. I’ve never done anything as creative. I’m so in love with my son, and my music. Whatever I do in my spare time, I’m always listening to music."
"I think people will always respond to emotion and to great songs sung well," she continued, "and I think the vocalists in particular will always be in demand."
Her sixth and latest solo recording, "I Wish You Love," marks her debut on the Telarc Label. The album includes jazzy renditions of a number of songs conceived in New York’s Brill Building, a place where songwriting talent emerged in the early 60s.
Produced by Joel Dorn, who produced "Experiment in White" at the beginning of Siegel’s career, and crafted with a distinctly late 50s nightclub vibe, the album is a collection of pop and jazz hits. All in some way are associated with the female perspective.
When asked, "Where is Janis Siegel going next?" she responded with a wish list: "Collaborating a project with some friends, attending a cooking school, opening a restaurant, creating the similarity of cooking and jazz and building a technique of the two, and pursuing a medical career."
On the album, "I wish You Love," Janis Siegel demonstrates why her reputation continues to spiral. She has produced a solid mainstream of love songs. The music is purposeful, a marvelous combination of rigor and looseness.
There is a relaxed yet crisp vigor to the accompaniment of musicians that include trumpeter Tom Harrell, vibist Bill Ware, and tenor saxophonist/flutist David "Fathead" Newman. The rhythm section adds distinct flavor propelled by pianist Cedar Walton, bassist David Williams and drummer Winard Harper.