Q-Music: All that (queer) jazz
By Gregg Shapiro
Out chanteuse Ann Hampton Callaway is perhaps best-known for being the composer and performer of one of the jazziest TV theme songs ever; “The Nanny Named Fran” from the Fran Drescher sitcom The Nanny. If course, there’s more the Callaway than that. She’s the older sister to singer (and occasional duet partner) Liz Callaway. She has released more than a dozen albums during the course of a recording career that has lasted more than 25 years. On Jazz Goes to the Movies (Shanachie), Callaway applies her impressive vocal skills to a set of 14 songs written between 1927 (Irving Berlin’s “Blue Skies” from The Jazz Singer) and1962 (Rodgers and Hart’s “This Can’t Be Love” from Jumbo). As the opening cut states, the album “’S Wonderful” (composed by the Gershwins for “An American in Paris”) in the way that it offers listeners another way to enjoy these classic tunes.
Kandace Springs is a queer artist whose legend precedes her. Influenced by Nina Simone, Springs was invited by Prince to perform onstage with his band for the Purple Rain 30th anniversary show. She has also collaborated with Wu-Tang Clan’s Ghostface Killah on his song “Love Don’t Live Here No More”. Her newest album Indigo (Blue Note) features splendid covers of Ewan MacColl’s “The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face”, Creed and Bell’s “People Make The World Go `Round” and Jesse Harris’ “Black Orchid”. Equally notable are Springs originals including “Breakdown”, “Unsophisticated” and “Simple Things” (co-written/co-performed with her father Scat Springs).
You’ve probably heard drummer Allison Miller keeping the beat on albums by fellow queer musicians Brandi Carlile, Erin McKeown and Ani DiFranco. But did you know that she also leads her own musical outfit known as Allison Miller’s Boom Tic Boom? She does! On BTB’s fourth album, Glitter Wolf (Royal Potato Family), Miller and company (including Todd Sickafoose, Jenny Scheinman and Myra Melford) deliver a set of ten originals that sparkle and have teeth. Highlights include “The Ride”, “Zev – The Phoenix”, “Daughter and Sun”, “Welcome Hotel” and the title number.
Gay guitarist Gregory Uhlmann is one third of the all-male Chicago jazz/post-rock trio Typical Sisters. In fact, you can certainly hear the influence of Chicago bands such as Tortoise and The Sea and Cake on Typical Sisters on its debut album Hungry Ghost (Outside Music). The gifted Uhlmann is clearly the focus here (apologies to his band mates) and songs including “To The Landing”, “Benjamin”, “Portrait of a Fast Moving Object” and “Young and Foolish” are showcases for his stellar playing.
Live at Earshot (Break Open) by lesbian trombonist and composer Naomi Moon Siegel was indeed recorded live at the PONCHO Concert Hall at Cornish College during the Earshot Jazz Festival in Seattle. Backed by a band including legendary keyboard player Wayne Horvitz, Siegel and her able-bodied musical crew effortlessly work their way through nine Siegel originals.