Asbury Park Press 11/23/12
If you miss the late singer-songwriter Phoebe Snow as much as I do, you’ll be happy to know that her native town of Teaneck has no shortage of female blues and jazz talent. Last Saturday, I went to hear vocalist-pianist Lauren Hooker and her Quartet at the Puffin Cultural Forum off Teaneck Road. This unique performance center houses book, film and DVD libraries, an art gallery, a sculpture garden, several large meeting rooms and one art gallery room where performances are held. The Plainfield-raised Hooker performed several years back at the Barron Arts Center in Woodbridge and could afford to be heard down the Shore a lot more. She played some excellent blues and jazz piano, accompanied by Tim Horner on drums, John Hart on guitar and Martin Wind, bass and cello. She performed a blues song “Countin’ on the Blues,” a song she wrote as a 22-year-old, and her voice, one minute powerful and soulful and the next minute subtle and understated, at times reminded me of Snow, who we lost April 26, 2011 at a rehab/hospice center in Edison. Hooker included a tune by pianist Mal Waldron showcased her lyrics, “Seagulls of Kristiansund,” accompanied by Wind on cello. Hooker also threw in a stirring take on Shirley Horn’s “Here’s To Life.” For more on educator-singer-songwriter-pianist Lauren Hooker, her website is www.laurenhooker.com.
To stay updated on other blues and jazz concerts coming to Puffin Cultural Forum, 20 Puffin Way, Teaneck, log on to www.puffinculturalforum.org.
Written by Richard Skelly Host of the “Low-Budget Blues Show’’ on WRSU 88.7 FM.
JAZZ INSIDE MONTHLY www.JazzInsideMagazine.com 05/2011
On this, her second album, vocalist Lauren Hooker proves to be an artist for all seasons. She wrote a number of tunes on this disc and did a lot of the arranging as well. The result is a record that is quite ambitious in scope and seemingly limitless in its approach. Hooker and her band mates possess a simpatico that is egoless and their diversity is exciting and fresh. “Life of the Music/Your Music Brings Out the Poetry in Me” opens the album with a heavy Coltrane/Pharoah Sanders influence by way of Scott Robinson’s soprano sax. The rhythm bubbles below the surface supporting expressive vocals from Hooker and inspired poetry in the tune’s mid-section by Jeanette Rideau. “If That’s What You Feel” follows with a relaxed and spirited samba that keeps things on a positive note. Hooker shifts into vocalese as the piece develops and is complemented well by Robinson on flute and flugelhorn. “Love Me or Leave Me” is a sassy standard that swings like crazy. Another Hooker original is “I Am Doing Very Well.” This one has a very “human” quality to it addressing irony and heartbreak within a bittersweet romance. Joni Mitchell’s “Song to a Seagull” follows and continues that somewhat somber atmosphere assisted by Mike Richmond’s wonderful cello and Hooker’s roving acoustic piano work. “I Lied” is a nice slice of easy-going pop hat spotlights the elasticity of Hooker’s voice. The groove here is strong and features fine guitar work from John Hart. Slightly down the list the band gets down to business with “Countin’ on the Blues.” This shows another side to the ensemble as punchy horns accent Hooker’s soulful repartee. “Walkin’ on Down the Line” is a fine example of an improvisational group that knows no boundaries. Just when you think you may have them pegged, Hooker throws you a curve with some unapologetic, down and dirty funk. The leader’s vocals are on fire and Hart’s screaming electric soloing truly takes this track for a “walk!” They conclude the disc with Leonard Bernstein’s lovely “Some Other Time” that wraps things on a reflective and pastoral note. Lauren Hooker is a musical renaissance woman and an artist to watch in the coming years. Well done!
Reviewed by Eric Harabadian
JAZZ TIMES 03/2011 (excerpts)
As a songwriter Hooker continues to impress…”If That’s What You Feel” is a galvanic ode to self empowerment… her misty “I Am Doing Very Well” traces lingerings for a lost love… The soulful “I Lied” shapes a cunning interior dialogue about romantic perceptions… the copendence at the heart of “Countin on the Blues” is craftily reversed in its final line, and the funky “Walkin on Down the Line” hammers home the hard-won resilience…rounds off the playlist with four astute covers… soaringly majestic… confidently forthright… warm… full-bodied…
Reviewed by: Christopher Loudon
JAZZ REVIEW.COM 02/10/11
Lauren Hooker delivers a bold album full of interesting twists and turns.
The surprises start early. She opens the album with a cool original that she kicks off but then turns over to poet Jeanette Curtis Rideau, who delivers a spoken-word performance. The track conjures up the feel and sounds of a 1950s nightclub inhabited by hip beatniks. “I ride your music—feel your story and smile,” says Rideau as a horn wails behind her. “Because your music brings out the poetry in me.” Life Of The Music comes three years after Hooker’s initial album and shows the singer-pianist paving her own unique path far from the territory usually occupied by jazz vocalists. The daughter of musician and jazz educator Louis Hooker, she knows what she’s doing. The album is made up of seven originals and four well-selected covers that allow Hooker to flex all her musical muscles. She has the light, shimmery touch of a 1960s pop chanteuse on the Latin-flavored “If That’s What You Feel.” Hooker then sounds completely different when singing Joni Mitchell’s “Song to a Seagull.” Here, she delivers a dreamy meditation that matches the moody seaside images captured in Mitchell’s lyrics. Hooker refuses to be pinned down to one style and works to make her vocals distinctive to each number. There’s “I Lied,” a catchy pop tune that has her singing in the upper register of her voice. Her versatility can be heard on other numbers as well. “Countin’ On The Blues,” another original, delivers a feet-tappin’ blues romp. Hooker brings swagger to the Walter Donaldson and Gus Kahn composition “Love Me Or Leave Me,” playfully using different inflections and stretching notes like a horn player. Throughout the album, she is backed by a solid band that matches her musical versatility. Together, they take some risks and reap the rewards.
Reviewed by: Donna Kimura
BOPNDICKS 10 PICKS FEB 2011
Your local hipster knows that Lauren Hooker does the deal of past romancers, Karoac nomenclature and arias to the deft, groove fifty summer eves, live at Newport, Monterey and over seas. Lauren Hooker combines her writing with oft poetry, the kind that proliferated The Village of the near after years. Lauren Hooker goes her own way, writes her own songs with prominent East Coast musicians, and with liner notes inscribed by world renown jazz bassist and Sacramento High School graduate, Rufus Reid...This is pure progressive jazz deified by the best.
Reviewed by: Dick Crockett “The Voice” 88.7FM, Sacramento, CA
IMPROVIJAZZATION NATION magazine 01/05/11
When I first reviewed Lauren’s fantastic vocal work on her debut in issue # 81, I was more than just “impressed” – I was captivated by her husky-toned marvels. On this new release (11/16/2010), she took it a step further in the direction I love my music to go, with a beautifully done spoken-word piece & title track, “Life of the Music/Your Music Brings Out the Poetry In Me” (spoken by Jeanette Curtis Rideau). This is a whole new dimension, & I love it, ‘specially since my own initial forays into performance were oriented around spoken-word. It’s my personal opinion that when a truly talented singer performs poetry, it’s even better than “straight singing”, & this piece proves it beyond the shadow of any doubt. It’s also most notable that Lauren does acoustic/electric piano & Djembe drum on several of the cuts… more of those “new dimensions” that show the depth of her talents! Another tune that really caught my ear was Lauren’s rendition of Joni’s “Song To a Seagull“; some beautiful cello by guest Mike Richmond on this one, too. It was the lively & down-home tune “Countin’ On the Blues” that got an immediate favorite pick from me, though… Lauren shows herself to be a sultan of swingin’ blues on this one! I give her a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, with an “EQ” (energy quotient) rating of 4.98 for this one. www.zzaj.freehostia.com
- Reviewed by Dick Metcalf aka: Rotcod Zzaj
Lauren Hooker's"Life of the Music" in W. Royal Stokes Best Jazz Vocal CDs of 2010 List.
W. Royal Stokes was editor of Jazz Notes, the quarterly journal of the Jazz Journalists Association, from 1992 to 2001 and has been editor of Jazz Times and the Washington Post’s jazz critic. He is the author of The Jazz Scene: An Informal History from New Orleans to 1990 (Oxford University Press, 1991), Swing Era New York: The Jazz Photographs of Charles Peterson (Temple University Press, 1994), Living the Jazz Life: Conversations with Forty Musicians about Their Careers in Jazz (Oxford University Press, 2000), and Growing Up With Jazz: Twenty-Four Musicians Talk About Their Lives and Careers (Oxford University Press, 2005). His novel Backwards Over will see publication in 2011. He currently writes for Jazzhouse.org and JJA News and is at work on a memoir and a fourth collection of jazz and blues profiles. www.wroyalstokes.com
Blogscritics Music 12/18/10
I Hear Sparks: Lauren Hooker - Life of the Music
Lauren Hooker does what she does because the music "brings out the poetry" in her. She tells us this simple truth on the opening track to her diverse, exciting Life of the Music recording. I've been listening to a lot of jazz vocalists as of late and it's sometimes hard to tell them apart. With all due respect to the amazingly talented artists out there rotating in and out of my ever-changing playlist, the nature of the craft starts to blend together after a while. It can be hard to provoke something unique. In the case of Hooker, the singer takes to the arrangements with the right sense of adventure. She takes risks and asks questions, sometimes in the middle of a song. She engages and always engages. This is evident with startling clarity right from the outset. Jeannette Curtis Rideau's spoken word and Hooker's singing highlight the wonderful "Life of the Music/Your Music Brings Out the Poetry in Me." The piece is an homage in part, but it's also a statement of intent as she glides between Rideau's portions and a scorching groove inspired by John Coltrane all in one breath. It's a bold move, but one she pulls off without looking twice. The rest of the record rises from this carefully constructed base. Whether she takes on an original piece or pokes around in the American Songbook, Hooker is always the explorer and always the dreamer. Her own compositions, like the smouldering nightclub number, "If That's What You Feel," provide insight to her creative process. The track's rhythmic quality opens the door for a little risk taking and scat singing, the latter something I've not always been a fan of. Hooker, despite my own perhaps-prudish objections to the form, smokes. Along for the ride are the likes of pianist Jim Ridl and bassist Martin Wind. Scott Robinson lends more than a few horns, while Tim Horner provides the necessary percussion. Hooker's take on Joni Mitchell's "Song to a Seagull" is bent in all the right places. She plays with the edges of her range and almost twists them downward, melting into Mike Richmond's cello. It's a haunting piece. With Life of the Music, Lauren Hooker asserts herself as a true seeker. Hers is a quest few have the guts to take on, admittedly, but her ability to make beauty out of the questions sets her apart from many other similar performers.
- Reviewed by Jordan Richardson
JAZZ SCAN 12/13/10
I reviewed Lauren Hooker’s debut album (Right Where I Belong) three years ago, and expressed the desire to hear more from her. She has released a new album, and it was worth the wait. Hooker is more than a vocalist; she’s also a pianist, composer, lyricist and arranger, and all these talents are displayed nicely in this album. She composed and wrote lyrics for seven of these 11 tunes; she plays the piano on three and arranged all of them. As for her “singing,” she’s more than a vocalist; she’s an “instrumentalist.” She has a great jazz sound, a three-octave range and outstanding phrasing and timing. Some reviewers have compared her (favorably) to other artists; I find that her combination of skills makes her unique. As always is the case, truly great jazz vocalists know that the quality of the accompanying musicians can make or break them; the group supporting Hooker does an excellent job. The combo includes John Hart on guitar; Scott Robinson on everything (flute/saxes/trumpet/flugelhorn); Mike Richmond on cello and bass; and a standard piano/bass/drums rhythm section. Hooker also does a beautiful job on covers of songs by others, notably “Love Me or Leave Me,” “Spring Is Here” and Joni Mitchell’s “Song to a Seagull.” Hooker is a keeper; too bad she limits her work to the New York City area.
- Reviewed by By Ric Bang
Oliver di Place On Building a Jazz Song…12/12/10
"I Am Doing Very Well" sounds like a standard, but is actually a Lauren Hooker original. To our basic band of drums, bass, and piano, Hooker adds a flugelhorn here, which is like adding a second voice. This is one of those songs about a woman who is trying to convince herself that she is alright without a recently lost lover. Listen to the way Hooker sings the word “except”. Another singer might stretch out the note, trying to wring every ounce of feeling out of it, and oversinging instead. Not Hooker. She clips that “except” short, and that says everything. It comes off like a sob caught in her throat, and the whole song works because of it. Elsewhere on the album, Hooker uses fuller arrangements than most of those in this post. In particular, her use of a cello in "Song to a Seagull" is a beautiful touch. Hooker can get different shades of emotion by making use of her wide range, but that would mean nothing without the talent and judgment to know what each song needs. Similarly, the diversity of arrangements found on this album is impressive, but never just for show. Hooker knows what each song needs, and she delivers.
- Reviewed by Darius Rips
O’s Place Jazz Newsletter 12/10/10
Lauren has a voice with a lot of character, guts and inflection. Life of the Music is a fine creation, a marriage of four classic tunes with seven originals that cover a wide spectrum - pop, ballads, blues and jazz.
WWPV 88.7 FM 12/8/10
...some of the best Jazz vocalists of today. LIFE OF THE MUSIC by singer Lauren Hooker w/ Poet Jeanette Curtis Rideau's "Your music brings out poetry in me". I do really enjoy this combination - it's a refined way to use the Spoken Word and mix it with Jazz and Blues harmonies over the tapestry of exhilarating and controlled virtuoso soloists, bringing new life to America's art form. For the lazy critics - JAZZ IS ALIVE in this show and in all my shows" Take a time and look for them thru Miles High Records, 2010 www.laurenhooker.com, www.mileshighrecords.com
- Reviewed by Toni Basanta
Singer and pianist Lauren Hooker takes chances on "Life Of The Music", her second album. She sets her own compositions up against classics of American music, re-works old favorites and uses some vocal shifts and inflections that other singers might think twice about. And thank goodness she does, because in doing so Hooker has assembled a refreshingly original set that both challenges and brings out the best in the singer and the top-flight band that accompanies her. Hooker's voice has an edge to it—it's not the standard soft-focus sound that seems to have become the norm for many new generation jazz singers. At first this can sound comparatively harsh but over time it becomes obvious that this edginess gives Hooker's sound a sensual quality all of its own. There are hints of Anita O'Day, of Joni Mitchell—not only on Mitchell's "Song to a Seagull" but also on Hooker's own "I Lied"—and even of Britain's Norma Winstone, but ultimately Hooker's voice has its own distinctive character. The band is also distinctive. Scott Robinson, a terrific horn player who is equally at home with the Great American Songbook and the cosmic sounds of Marshall Allen, plays exquisitely throughout the album—his soprano sax on "Life of the Music / Your Music Brings Out The Poetry In Me" flies and soars above the vocals and his flugelhorn solo on "I am Doing Very Well" adds greatly to the song's mood. John Hart plays some beautifully fluid guitar—his acoustic guitar solo on "I Lied" is an album highlight—while "Song to a Seagull" benefits from Mike Richmond's cello. Richmond moves to the acoustic bass to join Hart on a sparsely beautiful backing for Hooker's vocal on Betty Comden, Adolph Green and Leonard Bernstein's "Some Other Time." Hooker's cover versions are always interesting. Her version of Richard Rodgers and Lorenz Hart's gorgeous "Spring is Here" is an intriguing re-interpretation of the Songbook classic and on Walter Donaldson and Gus Kahn's "Love Me or Leave Me" Hooker's confident approach makes the vocal more of an instruction than a plea. Hooker's own covers are stylistically more straightforward, but she writes insightful lyrics and her phrasing and emphases work well in enhancing their impact—it's only the standard blues of "Countin' On The Blues" that sounds ordinary. Special mention must go to "Life of the Music / Your Music Brings Out The Poetry In Me." Hooker wrote the first half of this coupling around a poem handed to her by its anonymous author at a Greenwich Village gig. On the second part the poet Jeanette Curtis Rideau takes over from Hooker to recite her own words over the music. The whole composition has a real after midnight beat poet feel, heightened by Martin Wind's bass and Robinson's soprano sax. This is Hooker's most impressive and original composition on Life Of The Music, a consistently imaginative and superbly performed set of songs.
- Reviewed by Bruce Lindsay
JazzReview.com 11/12/10 (Excerpts)
“Life of the Music” is Lauren Hooker’s second CD coming three years after her debut effort. The CD gives an expansive sampling of Ms. Hooker’s styles and skills as vocalist, composer and pianist. The CD features many of her own compositions executed by a talented list of musicians including John Hart on guitars, and a guest appearance of Mike Richmond on cello and acoustic bass, as well as many other players. Hooker’s vocal styling is unique and her lyrics lend themselves to that style... there are some very special pieces on this CD, mostly Hooker’s original compositions that have some real depth to them as they are expressed by her own vocals. A few notable tracks include If That’s What You Feel, I Am Doing Very Well, and I Lied. These songs show the wide range of musical styles in which Hooker is comfortable. They lend themselves to her vocal phrasing and they are very personal expressions. My impression of the covers on this CD is that they are credible executions, but Love Me or Leave Me was the only notable track in this category. It fit the underlyng theme and was delivered strongly. Hooker’s strength is in her sophisticated bluesy styling and that lends itself to her relationship-themed tunes whether her originals or covers. She can vamp a tune, and shape and style a tune across the entire emotional palette. That is an enjoyable characteristic of her work. I would love to see her put together one of those rainy afternoon CDs of broken-heart themed ballads and blues that her voice is ideally suited to. Until then “Life of the Music” is a solid second effort by Lauren Hooker and she is a talent that offers lots for the future.
- Reviewed by: CHUCK VECOLI
Lauren Hooker in a Different Mode... *****(5 Stars)
There are few musicians with the depth of training that Lauren Hooker has. She is highly respected in the New York music scene not only for her admirable qualities as a jazz vocalist (she is one of the best before audiences today!), but she is also a composer, a creative lyricist, and an innovator in a field of luminaries. On this CD, LIFE OF THE MUSIC, Hooker approaches her selection of songs with a different stance, one that is more didactic in many ways, as though she is giving a master course in jazz. Her opening track not only allows her to sing and play one of her own compositions and reads the poem by Jeanette Curtis Rideau as though showing us how music and poetry mix in a final impact. Then she is off and running with some standards (Love me or Leave Me, Song to a Seagull, Spring is Here, Some other Time) mixed with seven of her own compositions. She has selected some very fine musicians with whom to collaborate and varies the combination of instrumentalists to match the mood of her varied selections. One of the strongest tracks on this album is her rendition of Leonard Bernstein's 'Some other Time' she offers with simple guitar and bass accompaniment. This is a well balanced album, one that allows us to sample the many aspects of Hooker's talent. She is clearly a force to contend with and her progress as one the country's finest jazz musicians is readily apparent in this her newest album.
- Reviewed by: GRADY HARP
Lauren Hooker – Life Of The Music (excerpts)
I scored an advance copy of this one – the second issue for Ms. Hooker and her band... this disc sports seven original tracks... “I Am Doing Very Well,” and “Countin’ On The Blues,” both written by Ms. Hooker, could both stand alongside any Great American Songbook classic. Favorites from the realm of standards on this disc include “Love Me Or Leave Me” and the Joni Mitchell ballad, “Song To A Seagull,” featuring Mike Richmond on cello. Ms. Hooker is a music educator and a pianist herself – backed here by Jim Ridl – also on piano, Martin Wind on bass, Tim horner on percussion and flute, Scott Robinson on a whole variety of wind instruments, who has a nice saxophone riff on “Countin’ On The Blues.” This disc is highly recommended.
- Reviewed by: Doug Boynton
ALL ABOUT JAZZ 10/28/10
Life Of The Music Lauren Hooker | Miles High Records (2010)
Style: Straight ahead/Mainstream
In 2007, vocalist Lauren Hooker turned out an impressive debut, Right Where I Belong (Musical Legends, Inc., 2007), which highlighted her solid, yet flexible, voice, and an ability to graft her own lyrics onto familiar instrumental jazz standards. Three years later, Hooker returns with a program that largely focuses on her own lyrics and music, demonstrating interests in the blues, straight-ahead jazz, funk, pop and Brazilian music. The opening track—a collaboration between Hooker and poet Jeanette Curtis Rideau—has some bite to it, featuring a burning solo from Scott Robinson's molten soprano saxophone. "If That's What You Feel" begins with Hooker's wordless vocals moving along with Robinson's flugelhorn, over a swaying Brazilian beat. One of the most emotionally powerful originals on the album is "I Am Doing Very Well"—a break-up song that touches on all of the conflicting emotions and pain that comes with that territory. Bassist Martin Wind adds a little Brazilian bounce to "I Lied," but John Hart's guitar work is the focal point on this one. Wind and drummer Tim Horner are a solid team behind Hooker on "Countin' The Blues," which features a terrific walking-the-bar-type saxophone solo from Robinson. "Hey This Is Me" is Hooker's take on contemporary pop—with a slight R&B tinge to the music—and "Walkin' On Down The Line" features some funky drumming from Horner and raunchy guitar sounds from Hart. While Hooker's compositional craft is at the core of the album, she also finds time to tackle four standards, shaped to her own liking. Her vocals cut like a knife on "Love Me Or Leave Me," which features some sublime scatting, and she soars on a waltzing "Spring Is Here." The latter tune is underscored by Horner's crisp, dry and articulate ride cymbal work, and Robinson's fluttery flute is a treat here. "Some Other Time" gently glides long as Hooker is intimately accompanied by Mike Richmond on bass and Hart on guitar. Seagulls had their place on Hooker's first album—with "Seagulls (Seagulls of Kristiansund)"—and this particular fowl found its way onto this record through Joni Mitchell's "Song To A Seagull." Hooker manages to create wide dramatic range—coming off with full throated vocals that Mitchell couldn't match when she penned this early-career classic—and the pairing of cello and piano is a nice touch. While this song has a sunny veneer, darker moods seem to lurk around. Life Of The Music, with its engaging original material and intelligently crafted covers, might just get plenty of people hooked on Lauren Hooker.
- Reviewed by: DAN BILAWSKY
ALBERT KHALIS PRIDE, Host of "The Jazz Is Out There" www.blazeradio.org (10/19/10)
CD is absolutely fabulous, especially original material, it's one of the best CD's I've heard this year, if I can put together a "Best Of Blazeradio Jazz" program before the year is out, rest assured, this one's going to be a part of it… "Life Of The Music" has a definite home at Blazeradio.
DEBORAH EVANS, 99.3FM Sydney, Australia (10/19/2010)
I’m loving the CD, played it this evening on the show and had a great response. I will be featuring the CD in 2 weeks as CD of the week. Thanks for the beautiful music
BOB PERRY, President, Big Sticks Broadcasting, Penthouse Radio, Island Park, NY (10/08/10)
“Love Me or Leave Me“ (3rd cut on "Life of the Music") out of the box and featured on our weekly NEW@TWO and PICK OF THE PLAY.
BOB COLLINS, Jazz Producer, WRHU 88.7fm Hofstra University, Hempstead, NY (10/7/2010)
"Life of The Music" is a gem! Kudos to all concerned.
THIS IS BOOKS MUSIC: WORDPRESS.ORG (10/5/2010)
There are times when I feel I’m up to my neck in jazz music by the buttload. Everyone wants to sing jazz but lack what I feel is the artistry and care for the music. They may love the song but it’s all “ba-dwiddle-deedle-lee-do” and that gets old very fast. But then there’s Lauren Hooker. She has been singing and performing for a few years, but I had not heard her music until now with her album Life Of The Music (Miles High). I’m impressed by the cover photo, very sexy, and while an image can sell, the music still has to convince me. What I heard was someone who is not only an artist, but cares for the music, someone who takes the song, embraces and seduces it, and makes sure every part of her being is plugged with sound. In other words, she is in tune and this is all within the first track, which combines a proper song (the title track), with a poem (“Your Music Brings Out The Poetry In Me”). This might sound like the means of a long lost Lisa Bonet scene from High Fidelity, and I had to keep on thinking to myself “this is the voice of the person on the cover?” It sounds real and natural, she doesn’t sound like someone who is trying to be someone she isn’t. I could just enter a room and say “woman, take me”. What I like about the rest of the album is that she is in total control of her voice and the music, she works hand in hand with the band so that there is an equal balance. A lot of times, especially in vocal jazz, a singer likes to overcompensate their lack of vocal skills by going overboard. Hooker, on the other hand, is very tasteful in her approach, almost like a painter with a unique perspective but knowing exactly what she wants people to see/hear. This is clear in her version of Joni Mitchell‘s “Song To A Seagull” and Leonard Bernstein‘s “Some Other Time”, but for a better grasp of what she’s about, her own material will bring the listener in even more (she wrote or co-wrote seven of the eleven songs here).In other words, she is very pleasant to listen to from start to finish, and for me that’s rare. Hooker is very much the Life Of The Music on this, her sophomore release. She is the kind of talent many pop singers need to listen to, as it’s someone who knows what it takes to make a song more colorful and vibrant, if not alive. As far as jazz vocalists are concerned, she definitely rises higher than most, or at least I’m happy to call myself a fan.
MIDWEST RECORD (10/6/2010)
LAUREN HOOKER/Life of the Music: A spiritual descendant to Anita O’Day, this risk taking jazz vocalist took her time between releases, but she will serve no performance before it’s time. Smoky, basement music whether she’s serving up Joni Mitchell, Leonard Bernstein or something that comes from a smoky shadow, Hooker is the main event after the main event. A delightful hipster who’s after midnight vibe will make you late for work, with a smile on your face, Hooker is a gas. Certainly left of center jazz vocalizing, this is one groovy chick from start to finish.
- Reviewed by: Chris Spector
EXCERPTS OF LINER NOTES FOR:
- "Life of the Music" (2nd Release)
If you are reading this, I know you enjoy good music. In your hands is "Life of The Music" which comes three years after Lauren Hooker’s initial acclaimed release. Her first recording, "Right Where I Belong" startled her critics in a great way. The consensus was they could not believe she had never recorded before. Her voice is mature, rich, robust, and full of emotion that only experience can bring. There is something here for everyone’s tastes. However, I am quite sure that was not Lauren’s immediate concern, but only to tell her story of her experiences. This recording is, simply, as the title suggests, a glimpse into her life through her own music and musical influences. There are four gems from the American Songbook and seven strong originals by Lauren to make up a well-balanced program for this superb recording. The listener receives a close-up view of Lauren Hooker’s broad musical scope and fine musicianship. She surrounds herself with seasoned world-class instrumentalists who make the collaboration spectacular . Multi-instrumentalist, Scott Robinson, pianist, Jim Ridl, bassist, Martin Wind and bassist/cellist, Mike Richmond, drummer, percussionist, Tim Horner, and guitarist, John Hart, embrace her like your favorite house slippers. The arrangements of each song have an interesting twist and are well executed. There are toe-tapping grooves like "Love Me Or Leave Me", to the thought provoking original Hooker title tune "Life of The Music", and Joni Mitchell’s "Song To a Seagull". Lauren Hooker’s voice possesses a myriad of colors that successfully embraces this ambitious and eclectic program. The musicians where chosen for their incredible expertise. The result is a wonderful pairing of creative individuals making great music! Brava Lauren Hooker! Enjoy repeated listening. I certainly have.
- Rufus Reid, Jazz Bassist/Composer
SELECTED REVIEWS LAUREN HOOKER – “Right Where I Belong” (Debut Release)
Plenty of jazz artists grow up with Bill Evans, Duke Ellington, Dave Brubeck and their iconic brethren, but Lauren Hooker is one of the few who can claim to have done so literally. She is the daughter of celebrated musician and conductor Louis Hooker. She studied music education at Fairleigh Dickinson University, where her dad headed the Fine Arts Department. Her postgrad work included jazz theory with Kenny Barron at Rutgers and jazz voice with Sheila Jordan at the Manhattan School of Music. Nearly two decades ago, she set lyrics to Mal Waldron’s “Seagulls of Kristiansund” and recorded them with Waldron himself. Since then, she created the multimedia installation “Jazz Expressions”... appeared on a spectrum of arts-related TV shows... Now, after what must surely rank as one of the longest and most intense preparatory periods in jazz history, Hooker has finally made her own album-length debut. Hooker’s vocal stylizing, with its clarion tone, crisp phrasing (reminiscent of both Nancy Wilson and Shirley Horn) and blues-accented undercurrent, is undeniably impressive, and her covers of “You’d Be So Nice to Come Home To”, “Ill Wind” and “Creole Love Call” are certainly imaginative. But Hooker’s greatest strengths lie on the other side of the mic. As craftswoman of original tunes – the bright and breezy “The Eyes of Chaz” (written for her infant son), the long-distance love lament “The Other Side of the Sun”, the clever “Time and Space”, a peppy dissection of a romance that’s physically fulfilling but emotionally vacant, and “No Goodbyes”, the deceptively simple tale of a too-long bruised and battered heart- she can hold her own against pretty much any singer-songwriter in the business. Hooker’s ability to add lyrics to instrumental classics- the aforementioned “Seagulls”, “Goodbye Pork Pie” (an autobiographical sketch fitted to Mingus’ “Goodbye Pork Pie Hat”, Monk’s “Well You Needn’t” reinvented as the feisty “You Needn’t Call Me”, Wayne Shorter’s “Footprints” shaped into the heartbreaking “Footprints On My Soul” (which Hooker originally wrote for Sheila Jordan) and Fats Waller’s “Jitterbug Waltz” revved into the breakneck merry-go-round of “Lovebug Jitters”- is flat out masterful.
- Reviewer: Christopher Loudon
ALL ABOUT JAZZ NY:
Lauren Hooker's Right Where I Belong is one of the standout vocal releases of this year thus far without a doubt, not to mention a candidate as one of 2007's strongest debut releases.
- Reviewer: Laurence Donohue-Greene, Managing Editor
WKCR 89.9FM COLUMBIA UNIVERSITY, NYC:
Jazz Vocalist, composer, and lyricist Lauren Hooker has a great CD...a fine release...definitely not to be her last CD...we'll be looking for the next one!
- Sharif Abdus-Salaam, Host: “Jazz Alternatives”
JAZZ IMPROV NY:
Lauren Hooker grew up around music. She had piano lessons when she was four, sang as a teenager, and has said that she aims for “Sarah Vaughan’s range, Ella’s scat, Miles Davis’ tone and Coltrane’s intention.” Those are worthy if unattainable goals but Ms. Hooker has developed into a fairly distinctive singer, a skilled scatter and a talented lyricist and songwriter. All of those qualities are in evidence throughout Right Where I Belong. Joined by a top-notch rhythm section, Lauren Hooker performs 13 songs including six jazz standards that feature her lyrics and four originals in which she contributed both words and music. The only songs that do not have her lyrics are a cooking version of “You’d Be So Nice To Come Home To” which is an excellent feature for her very original scatting, and a medley of “Ill Wind” and a wordless “Creole Love Call.” Particularly intriguing are her additional stanzas to “Sometimes I Feel Like A Motherless Child” (which is taken at a faster-than-usual tempo) and Thelonious Monk’s “Well You Needn’t,” which, like “Footprints” and “Goodbye Pork Pie Hat,” have been given new lyrics that differ quite a bit from the more familiar words. Pianist Allen Farnham and bassist Rufus Reid get plenty of concise solos, and drummer Tim Horner helps keep the music swinging while keeping the main focus on the singer. Ms. Hooker does not have an overly colorful voice although she is always in tune. Her conversational style is fine on the slow material but she is at her best on blazing tempos. She takes Fats Waller’s “Jitterbug Waltz” very fast and races through her lyrics (which sound like vocalese though they aren’t) with little effort. Of her originals, “Time And Space” is the most memorable and has the best chance of catching on. Other highlights include a bluesy interpretation of “Ill Wind,” her lyrics to Charles Mingus’ “Goodbye Pork Pie Hat” and a display of her range on “Creole Love Call.” Since she has been active in jazz as a performer and an educator since the late 1980s, it is surprising that Right Where I Belong is Lauren Hooker’s recording debut as a leader. Overall it is an impressive effort, and a fine starting point for Lauren Hooker’s recording career.
- Reviewer: Scott Yanow
ALL ABOUT JAZZ NY:
A vocalist who stands head and shoulders above the controversy…
(a) notable release… Lauren Hooker’s impressive recording debut, “Right Where I Belong” (Musical Legends), features 12 tunes with originals by Hooker and employing her own arrangements on the standards. Hooker also distinguishes herself as a lyricist on instrumentals like “Footprints” and “Goodbye Porkpie Hat”.
- Reviewer: Suzanne Lorge
ALL ABOUT JAZZ LA:
Here's a vocalist that is going to knock you off your chair. Newcomer Lauren Hooker, on what is essentially her debut recording, hits a double off the wall on this gratifyingly creative disc consisting of standards, originals, and refashioned jazz classics. Her voice - rich, confident and assured - is like Dianne Reeves, pitch perfect. Hooker's timing and sense of swing is absolutely impeccable, and she can take a lyric and mold it like clay. Putting her own lyrics to the likes of "Jitterbug Waltz" ("Lovebug Jitters") and "Footprints" ("Footprints On My Soul"), she gives the well known melodies a fresh twist of lime. Her pitch, as evidenced on Duke Ellington's searing "Creole Love Call," will give you goose bumps. Her own compositions, like "No Goodbyes" are perfectly suited jazz vehicles, and deserve to be appreciated on their own musical basis. The band, lead by master bassist Rufus Reid, is simply impeccable, and flies through these songs like a javelin. Swoop up Right Where I Belong, and look for this New Jersey lady when she comes to town; it's sure to be an event.
- Reviewer: George Harris
There are few musicians with the depth of training that Lauren Hooker has. She is highly respected in the New York music scene not only for her admirable qualities as a jazz vocalist (she is one of the best before audiences today!), but she is also a composer, a creative lyricist, and an innovator in a field of luminaries. On this CD, appropriately named 'Right Where I Belong', Lauren Hooker is finally available to those of us on the West Coast who know her only by reputation. Here she works with Allen Farnham, piano, Rufus Reid, bass, and Tim Horner, drums and percussion - the perfect set of superb musicians that supply all the atmosphere and zest Hooker sets in her styling. She has an incredible vocal range, able to carry her irresistible scat singing into the stratosphere (as in 'You'd be so nice to come to') while at the same time dipping into the contralto range for her special imprints on songs such as 'The other side of the sun'. This is a well balanced album, one that allows us to sample the many aspects of Hooker's talent. She is clearly a force to contend with and it is rewarding to finally have a CD that will bring her to the appreciation of a wider audience. Lauren Hooker is right where she belongs - here!
- Reviewer: Grady Harp
LAUREN HOOKER on the list of ... “Some of the Best Female Jazz Vocalists You May Not Have Heard...” The list author from AMAZON Gary L Connely (Hercules, CA) says: "In my opinion, Etta Jones was the greatest jazz singer that nobody ever heard of, (and when people had heard of her, they often thought that she was Etta James). So without further ado, here's my list of contemporary female jazz singers who could be nominated for the Etta Jones Memorial Award - given to the best unsung singer singing today..."Lauren Hooker has a well trained, mid-register voice. Ms Hooker's debut album, "Right Where I Belong," is a set of original songs and instrumental standards for which she has written lyrics. The album features some great piano work by Allen Farnham." 4.5 stars
ALL ABOUT JAZZ:
It turns out that not only does jazz singer Lauren Hooker have some impressive credentials, her debut album is also filled with surprises. Born into a musical family, (her father recorded with Bill Evans during their college days in New Jersey), Hooker assumed a career as an entertainer during the early 1980s as well as being a musical educator at The Bank Street School for Children in Manhattan. Her first big break came in 1989, when she recorded with legendary pianist Mal Waldron and wrote original lyrics to his composition, “The Seagulls of Kristiansund.” This singular moment has been cited as a raison d'etre for Hooker's writing skills and the ability to tell stories per her lyrics. The makeup of these eleven tracks consists of seven songs where she has written original lyrics to jazz standards, two originals and two from the Great American Songbook. The title tune is really the traditional melody, “Sometimes I Feel Like A Motherless Child” with her own adaptation changing the title to “Right Where I Belong.” On the Duke Ellington classic, “Creole Love Call,” Hooker uses her three octave range in vocalese fashion to further enhance the timeless melody. Perhaps the most impressive part of the album is Lauren Hooker's writing for some of the more modern bebop era compositions with completely different lyrics than originally submitted by the original songwriters. On Wayne Shorter's “Footprints” (here called “Footprints on My Soul”), the lyrics are quite different than those previously recorded, including the Grammy-nominated album by Karrin Allison. Charles Mingus' “Goodbye Porkpie Hat” offers none of the meaningful Lester Young tribute lyrics that made the Mingus tune so appropriate. I'm not so sure that I prefer this one over the original. Thelonious Monk's “Well You Needn't” is given a new dressing via Hooker's title, “You Needn't Call Me,” despite previously submitted lyrics (and title changes) from Jon Hendricks and Carmen McRae. “Lovebug Jitters” offers her own take on the classic Fats Waller standard “Jitterbug Waltz.” What matters most with regard to these original rewrites is not whether or not they are better than the words that we may be more interested in hearing, but that Lauren Hooker has the ability and drive to submit these lyrics and deliver them in a swinging sense that befits the works of Shorter, Waller, Monk, Waldron and Mingus. Lauren Hooker's musical companions are an excellent group consisting of über-piano accompanist Allen Farnham, bassist Rufus Reid and much in-demand drummer Tim Horner.
- Reviewer: By Michael P. Gladstone, Senior Editor
Lauren Hooker’s newest entry into the world of jazz is far from mediocre. Powerful in vocals, a positioned flow of acute arrangements, and a vast array of fine selections sets the stage for a highly seasoned musical performance! Musical Legends' release, Right Where I Belong, has numerous attitudes, however, none more profound than that of a sultry soul. Her talent is best described with the numerous cuts in which Hooker bleeds her bondage into each and every ballad. Feelings are invoked when Hooker lets loose her vocals…giving the listener a sense of much more than just notes on a scale. The impact on most cuts is strong with a high fever pitch. Her soul is her sound! That, my fellow jazz enthusiast, is the main ingredient to the craft itself. “Seagulls,” by Mal Waldron, is such a wonderful piece. It articulates a story with music. Hooker, taking this Waldron instrumental and adding her lyrics, cements herself as a ‘multi-talent’ in this genre. Many have been quoted as labeling Hooker “a full circle musician.” If any piece of Hooker’s work substantiates this statement, it would be “Seagulls.” A heartfelt piece is shown by Hooker’s own creation, “No Goodbyes.” One becomes enveloped in the strong jazz piece, exhibiting the warmth of every broken heart ever torn. Lyrics are simple, yet in the purist form, addressing the love that was lost without a trace. The arrangement adds to the deep sorrow. An embraceable ballad for those nights when one reminisces…and falls once more into the arms of the lost! Hooker is where she needs to be. In other words, “Right Where She Belongs.” This experience can only offer us hopes of more expressive and diverse journeys with Ms. Hooker. Add to your collection only in hopes for another addition soon.
- Reviewer: Karl Stober
NEW JERSEY JAZZ SOCIETY:
Vocalist LAUREN HOOKER is another presence on the New Jersey scene. She was reared here, graduated from Fairleigh Dickinson University with a degree in Music Education, and has had a New Jersey-based career as a performer and music educator that has garnered her much critical acclaim, and an enthusiastic fan base. "Right Where I Belong" (Musical legends – No Catalog #) is a hip initial recording from a very musical and creative lady, who complements her talents with the good sense to call upon the likes of pianist Allen Farnham, bassist Rufus Reid and drummer Tim Horner for musical support. Most of the program is comprised of completely original pieces by Hooker or jazz tunes to which she has added her own lyrics. It is rare that a first album consisting of primarily original material grabs me upon a first hearing, but this one immediately felt like an old friend. Many performers like Hooker, who grew up at a time when rock and related styles of music were predominant, seem lyrically influenced by the style of the singer-songwriters who displaced the lyric artistry of giants like Cole Porter, Lorenz Hart, Johnny Mercer, Ira Gershwin, with lyrics that are carelessly penned, full of false rhymes, pseudo-intellectual imagery that reeks of pretension, and overly personal confessional story telling. Hooker finds a happy middle ground between these extremes. Her lyrics borrow from the best of both worlds, and are carefully written, often containing reflections of her personal experiences, but still general enough to avoid making you feel like you are a furtive observer of specific occasions and relationships. Hooker is an adventurous singer, with a fine voice of producing finely shaded readings of her material.This may be her first album, but it is evident that Lauren Hooker is a mature and talented performer who deserved an opportunity to record long before this. (www.laurenhooker.com) (NOTE: A portion of the proceeds from the sale of this album will be contributed to the Katrina Children’s Relief Fund)
- Reviewer: Joe Lang
ENJA MUSIC PUBLISHING:
I am amazed with your warm voice and the breathtaking artistic interpretation of the song ("Seagulls" written by Mal Waldron as "Seagulls of Kristiansund" enja music publishing, lyrics by Lauren Hooker) as well as the compassionate lyrics you have written.
- Reviewer: Jürgen Enninger, Germany
THE DAVIS ENTERPRISE:
Give a try … believe me: You'll remember the artist… and keep an eye out for future releases… excellent example of how good jazz hasn't changed all that much over the years … vocalist Lauren Hooker isn't just another singer; she wrote (or re-wrote) the lyrics and arranged most of the tunes on this debut CD. While several tracks are jazz standards, most are “tribute” tunes to her son, former lovers and famous jazz stars - Fats Waller, Lester Young, Duke Ellington - along with arrangements suggested by other musicians with whom she has worked. Hooker has a great jazz sound, and her phrasing and timing are outstanding. Most importantly, she's backed by an excellent trio: pianist Allen Farnham, bassist Rufus Reid and drummer Tim Horner.
- Reviewer: Ric Bang, jazz critic
THE TIMES ARGUS:
"Right Where I Belong," her first solo CD, is a fine example of a singer who seems very comfortable in her musical setting. The songs, ranging from the blues/gospel of "Sometimes I feel like a Motherless Child," to "Goodbye Pork Pie" and "No Goodbyes," are a fine showcase for Hooker's vocal abilities. Her voice exudes warmth with a friendly feel to it. Relaxed and assured, she puts lots of space between verses, allowing the instrumentalists plenty of play. She doesn't venture into vocal gymnastics much, adhering to the concept that "less is more." One doesn't have to be a jazz fan to appreciate Hooker's taste or delivery. She's also a fine songwriter and lyricist, credited with several tracks on the album. The backing musicians Allen Farnham on piano, Rufus Reid on bass and Tim Horner on drums and percussion are consummate instrumentalists and stalwarts of the Big Apple jazz scene. Hooker must be highly respected to have landed this talented trio for this project.
- Reviewer: Art Edelstein, Arts Correspondent
Here's a CD debut by a talented, young singer backed by a great, veteran, New York City-based trio. Bassist Rufus Reid and pianist Allen Farnham co-produced the recording with Hooker. Joined by tasteful drummer Tim Horner, they cook-up a repertoire of daring, witty, reshaped jazz standards like "Goodbye Pork Pie Hat", "Creole Love Call", "Footprints" and "Jitterbug Waltz". Hooker's new lyrics to these tunes and the band's reinvented arrangements are inspired. She's a smart, skilled, adventurous singer too. Think of a young Sheila Jordan.
- Reviewer: Joseph Blake,
The CD, Right Where I Belong, by Lauren Hooker is a very impressive jazz project, packed with original and classic jazz compositions. Lauren's vocals are in a class by themselves. She flows vocally through different jazz standards as if she lived them herself. Her voice is rich, tasteful and soulful. Lauren brings back the 50's sound with avengence and just plain brilliance. The track, "No Goodbyes", is a composition that propells Lauren in the same class as Ella Fitzgerald and Sarah Vaughan. It's a beautiful and pure composition, and it stands above the rest of the original jazz tracks on the album. The lyrics tell a heart-felt story that can be appreciated by anyone, regardless of age. We recommend everyone to listen to the entire album and we can assure you that you won't be able to stop listening to the project. It's an inspiration for any musician or songwriter. Lauren Hooker is here to stay and in our opinion, deserves a Grammy for this project. Pick up a copy today!
ALL MUSIC GUIDE:
Lauren Hooker's debut recording as a leader is an impressive affair. She is obviously someone who has paid her dues over the previous two decades as a performer, as demonstrated in her ambitious, wide-ranging choice of material, most of which she arranged as well. Accompanied by a top shelf rhythm section, consisting of pianist Allen Farnham, bassist Rufus Reid and drummer Tim Horner, she's equally at home tackling spirituals like "Sometimes I Feel Like a Motherless Child" (which is retitled "Right Where I Belong" due to her additional lyrics), standards popular during the swing era ("Ill Wind" and a wild, hilarious romp through Fats Waller's "Jitterbug Waltz", for which she contributed lyrics, calling it "Lovebug Jitters." But Hooker's finest performances are revealed in her selection of post-bop material, all of which she wrote lyrics. Charles Mingus' "Goodbye Porkpie Hat" is transformed from a funeral dirge for Lester Young into a moving autobiographical sketch of a woman and her baby leaving her abusive man. She had previously collaborated with Mal Waldron, writing lyrics for (and recording) his "Seagulls of Kristiansund;" this dramatic rendition features the singer accompanying herself on piano, with Farnham adding a tasteful touch of synthesizer in the background. Hooker's adaptation of Wayne Shorter's modal masterpiece "Footprints" (renamed "Footprints On My Soul"), also packs a powerful punch. Only "You Needn't Call Me" is a disappointment, as her lyrics to Thelonious Monk's "Well, You Needn't" are not the equal of those written by Mike Ferro for Carmen McRae's excellent recording of "It's Over Now," though Farnham and Reid offer dynamite solos. The vocalist also wrote four strong originals, highlighted by the brisk samba "The Eyes of Chaz," which features her playful scat and a variety of percussive effects by Horner. All jazz vocalists should strive to the reach the heights that Lauren Hooker achieves on her very first CD.
- Reviewer: Ken Dryden
New Jersey’s brilliant, soulful jazz composer / musician / vocalist / lyricist, Lauren Hooker, presents her debut opus to the world on a diamond laden silver platter. Right Where I Belong is packed full of both original and classic jazz compositions as well as Lauren’s original lyrics set to tunes that you may remember from decades past (Fats Waller, Monk, Mingus, etc.). Lauren’s four octave vocal range alone sets her leaps and bounds ahead of the competition, not to mention her jaw-dropping composition genius found on tracks such as “Time & Space” and “No Goodbyes”. To describe Lauren’s presence on Right Where I Belong, one would immediately sense inspiration from such classics as Sarah Vaughan, Ella Fitzgerald, John Coltrane and Miles Davis. However, Lauren has been fortunate enough to grow up in an environment that allowed her to meet and spend time with living jazz legends such as Duke Ellington, Dave Brubeck, Mal Waldron (Billie Holiday’s former pianist), Michael Cochrane and Allen Farnham. Now that the world is wise to Lauren’s ability, the hardest part is waiting until she releases her sophomore album… unless you live in the New York metropolitan area where you can catch her performing at such swanky venues as Lounge Zen... and the many Greenwich Village Jazz clubs.
- Reviewer: Brian Ball, Music Editor
THE MUSICIAN'S OMBUDSMAN ejazznews.com:
Formidable comes to mind when I ponder the musicianship of the backing contained therein for jazz singer Lauren Hooker's new CD effort. And, ''swing'' is the positive result of all that musical interplay. Lauren & her wondrous group of three veterans, (Tim Horner-drums, Rufus Reid-bass, & Allen Farnham on piano deliver a myriad of artistic polyphonic jewels joined to a panoply of reflection, color, & dynamics. As for Lauren, she is the embodiment of the aesthetic, deeper, philosophical side of the vocal idiom. Her passionate delivery is imbued with candor, structure, reflection, & lovely kaleidoscopic song patterns that are certainly easy to listen to.
- Reviewer: George W. Carroll
What attracted me to Lauren's debut CD was her writing and delivery of new lyrics to five jazz instrumental standards - Goodbye Porkpie Hat, Jitterbug Waltz, Monk's Well You Needn't, Mal Waldron's Seagulls of Kristiansund, and Wayne Shorter's Footprints. They're a kick, reminding me of Jon Henrick's efforts in the same direction. She also has several original songs among the 13 tracks. Her voice is excellent, if not that unique, and Allen Farnham is one of the top jazz pianists around, providing first class backing for the her vocals. TrackList: [Lauren's titles for the jazz instrumental lyrics differ a bit from the originals] Right Where I Belong, You'd Be So Nice to Come Home To, Goodbye Port Pie, The Eyes of Chaz, The Other Side of the Sun, You Needn't Call Me, Time and Space, Seagulls, Lovebug Jitters, No Goodbyes, Footprints On My Soul, Ill Wind, Creole Love Call. I'm really not a big vocal music fan, preferring instrumental music in all genres, and evidently many of our other AudAud reviewers are of similar mind, because a fearsome stack of mostly jazz vocalist CDs has piled up in a corner needing reviewing. What follows is a quick survey of most of them. Readers should know that my tastes run toward singers with completely unique vocal styles, and most of them don't really have what might be called terrific voices. Examples: Mose Allison, Dave Frishberg, Bob Dorough, Blossom Dearie, Randy Newman, Billie Holiday, Lotte Lenya, Paolo Conte, Jack Sheldon. So ya' know whereof I's a comin' from, OK?
- Reviewer: John Henry
INTERNATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF JAZZ RECORD COLLECTOR:
It took this talented vocalist, composer, lyricist and yes even a darn good pianist a long time to come forth with her debut recording but here it is and it was well worth the wait. A bit of background on this person is in order. She has been a professional musician now since a teenager. I have no idea of her age and would never ask a lady that question in the first place. But I would venture a guess she has been on the scene for a number of years. A recording was made with Mal Waldron back in the 1980’s but never was issued. I wish someone would issue it. Her education is long and varied and can easily be found on her website but will mention only two places, Manhattan School of Music and Rugters University. She has had much professional training but despite that she comes across as a very free spirit. Now to the recording at hand. So many records start off with what I would consider their best effort in order to immediately catch your intention. I do not find that here. This music just seems to build and build. She has the command of nearly a 4 octave voice. Yet you wouldn’t even get a hint of that from the first track but believe me by the time you get to “Creole Love Call” (my favorite by the way) you know it well. The tune list above shows one song title and then another in brackets. Well, she wrote lyrics to some of these songs and alternate lyrics to others. No gimmicks here at all. The truth is they would make good poetry in their own right. The lyrics as well as her sharing some thoughts about each song are printed in the booklet. I found this to be very interesting and wish other artists would do the same. She does play piano on one tune, “Seagulls" (Seagulls of Kristiansund by Mal Waldron). The other musicians are to be commended. Rufus Reid is a well known bassist and his work here again is super. The same can be said of Mr. Farnham and Mr. Horner. They just know what to put down. All three give her all the support in the world. This is not just another vocalist backed by a trio. It is difficult to verbalize just how unusual this CD is. She is a very mature artist. She has talent and good taste. She just comes across as so honest and genuine. One wishes that he or she would know her personally as her music is so intimate. Well recommended.
- Reviewer: Herb Young
The title song - a twist on the vocals to "Sometimes I Feel Like A Motherless Child," sort of sets the tone for the whole disc. It's familiar, yet different. Ms. Hooker has rearranged the lyrics to this one, and added lyrics to some of the others, like Theolonius Monk's "You Needn't Call Me." Three old pros join Ms. Hooker - Allen Farnham on piano and arrangements, Tim Horner on drums, and Rufus Reid on bass. Two of the songs jump out for me, in addition to the title song. Ms. Hooker's original, "Time and Space," along with a driving version of Cole Porter's "You'd Be So Nice To Come Home To," which also serves as a marvelous showcase for Mr. Farnham's piano. Another original, "No Goodbyes," is the best of the tracks to frame both Ms. Hooker's fine voice, and her writing skills. It's memorable, and quietly beautiful... Ms. Hooker has a background as an educator; and she and the guys have taken some chances here. Not every one worked for me - but when they did - as on that title track I keep mentioning - they knock it out of the park. Go listen - download the tracks that I've mentioned. I think we'll both be looking for the next one from Ms. Hooker and the guys.
- Reviewer: Doug Boynton
Lauren Hooker: Right Where I Belong (2006 , Musical Legends): Jazz singer. Dates her career from 1984, but this is her first album. It's also pretty impressive. Her voice spices '50s cool with a dash of Sheila Jordan and a knack for scat. She arranges three standards, writes four originals, and adds words to six more, including five jazz instrumentals, from Mingus, Monk, Waller, Waldron, and Shorter. B+(***)
- Reviewer: Tom Hull
ABOUT HER PERFORMANCES:
New Jersey boasts numerous excellent jazz singers, and Lauren Hooker is among them...Zan Stewart,Star Ledger
Lauren is a thoughtful and sensitive singer with a wide range of styles and octaves. ...[her] stage presence is very pleasant... really friendly and genuinely happy to be there entertaining.... [She] absolutely captured the audience... bringing [them] to their feet ...Andrea Tyson, President, Jersey Jazz Society
Her clever lyrical take on Thelonious Monk's classic "Well You Needn't" brings a new curve to the song...a singing voice and style which can easily compete with the best of the current crop of jazz artists ...Kenneth Higney, Sr. VP, Arc Music Group
... her mature, full sounding voice instills soul to standards and originals
....Ellen Lovejoy, The News Tribune
It is obvious (she) loves what (she) is doing, and that love comes across to the audience. You can't help but be swept away
....Paul Volpe, Newark Public Library, Newark, NJ
A Fine Musician! ...David Darling, Grammy winner cellist and composer
Impressive... I look forward to hearing more of (her) work
....Joe Lang, Former President, NJ Jazz Society
...a smooth, sultry voice...charming manner and vibrant stage presence...mesmerizes the audience
....Ethan Galvin, Director, Elmwood Park Public Library, NJ
She gives you fever...brought the house down...keeps getting better!
....Friends of Music, UUC, NJ