Christy Baron - Steppin'

Christy Baron - Steppin'
Christy Baron - Steppin'
Item# JD201

Product Description

When jazz singers interpret popular music, their main source is often the great standards and Broadway music of the 1920's, 1930's and 1940's. Turning most of their attention to George and Ira Gershwin, Cole Porter, Irving Berlin and other famous composers of that era, they tend to ignore the rock and R&B songs of the last 40 years, assuming they are irrelevant to jazz singing. Yet worthwhile popular music didn't die with the Gershwin Brothers -- great popular songs continue to be written, and on her second Chesky album, Steppin', Christy Baron demonstrates that the popular music of the 1960's, 1970's, 1980's and 1990's can, in fact, be relevant to a jazz-oriented vocalist. This album's primary focus is what Baron calls "modern standards" or "new standards:" from The Beatles' "Tomorrow Never Knows," Peter Gabriel's "Mercy Street" and Phil Collins' "This Must Be Love" to Prince's "Thieves In The Temple" and The Atlanta Rhythm Section's "Spooky." Pianist/keyboardist Herbie Hancock was thinking along similar lines when he recorded the instrumental Main Ingredient for Verve in the late 1990's,and Steppin' was being planned coincidentally around the same time. "To me, standards aren't called standards because they're from a certain era," asserts the Pittsburgh-raised singer/actress, who now lives with her husband and baby daughter just outside of New York. "They're standards because they're songs that people listen to and enjoy on a regular basis. They're the popular songs of their day." To some jazz purists, songs by The Beatles, Peter Gabriel and the innovator formerly known as Prince should be off limits to jazz improvisors. But truth be told, Baron interpreting their songs in the year 2000 is as logical as Ella Fitzgerald or Helen Merrill interpreting Rodgers & Hart in the 1950s--and make no mistake: interpreting the songs is exactly what she does. If you're looking for predictable, note-for-note covers of rock and R&B favorites, you won't find them here. Originally an up tempo soul number in the early 1970's, Billy Preston's "Will It Go Round In Circles" becomes moody jazz-noir in Baron's hands. And while The Zombies' "She's Not There" was originally a British Invasion rock hit in the 1960's, Baron puts a very funky, R&B-minded spin on the song. "I wasn't trying to improve any of these songs or make them better - I just wanted to give you my take on them," Baron notes. "My interpretation of 'She's Not There' changes the whole perspective of the song. When The Zombies recorded it, 'She's Not There' was done from a guy's perspective. But my version is a woman telling a guy, 'Get it together--she's not around, but I'm here. Get over it.'" Steppin' will come as a surprise to those whose introduction to Baron was her recording debut of 1996, I Thought About You. While that Cliff Korman-arranged effort wasn't without R&B and pop elements and found Baron interpreting The Beatles' "Got To Get You Into My Life," Bill Withers' "Ain't No Sunshine" and Stevie Wonder's "Summer Soft," it was acoustic-oriented and employed a basic piano trio. "On Steppin' we wanted to do something different," says David Chesky, "so I asked Didier Rachou to take a few chances and produce something new." Producer Didier Rachou is more contemporary in his approach, mixing jazz, world musics and cutting-edge electronica styles. Baron will be the first to tell you that Steppin' is far from the work of a hard bop purist. This is a jazz-oriented album, but it's a jazz-oriented album that is quite mindful of pop, R&B, and electronica, as well as world music. "Tomorrow Never Knows" incorporates traditional Tuvan throat singing, and one hears traces of Indian music on "Mercy Street." "I have never claimed to be a jazz purist or a straight-ahead singer," asserts Baron. "I'm definitely more contemporary-minded, and I embrace music from different eras. I can't help being influenced by the many different styles of music that I have loved during my life." Indeed, parts of the album are funky enough to attract R&B audiences -- it's easy to imagine Erykah Badu or N'Dea Davenport fans getting into Baron's makeover of "She's Not There" or her hypnotic interpretation of Heatwave's 1977 funk smash "Ain't No Half Steppin'." The hip-hop vibe is especially strong on "Nite And Day" and "Delays On The Downtown 6," the two original songs on the album, both written by Didier Rachou and Lucy Lean. "Delays" is a jazz/hip-hop poem that features David Johansen of New York Dolls fame. The piece is a vivid collage of contrasting Manhattan vignettes. "If Miles Davis were alive today," Baron comments, "he'd be continuing to grow and challenge himself. He had to do his own thing, which is why he was an inspiration to so many artists. It's important for artists to express what they honestly feel--and with this album, I was able to incorporate many of the styles that I love and use them to make a personal statement." -- Alex Henderson March 2000

Track Listings

  1. Will It Go 'Round In Circles
  2. Mercy Street
  3. Tomorrow Never Knows
  4. Thieves in the Temple
  5. This Must Be Love
  6. Delays on the Downtown 6
  7. She's Not There
  8. The Shadow of Your Smile
  9. Is Love Enough
  10. Ain't No Half Steppin'
  11. Spooky
  12. Nite and Day