Deborah Shulman is a pure, honey-toned vocalist whose style draws equally from jazz and theater. With a wondrous sense of dynamic control and a clear, lucid diction, the longtime vocal coach has begun to make her mark on the Los Angeles jazz scene, where she performs regularly with the city’s most visible musicians.
Several of those West Coast jazz artists appear on her brave and nuanced album, “My Heart’s in the Wind.” Leading a quartet of guitarist Larry Koonse, drummer Joe LaBarbera, pianist Terry Trotter, and bassist Ken Wild, Shulman explores a program of mostly Great American Songbook standards with a jazz singer’s ingenuity and thespian’s expressive range. A hushed, vulnerable take on the Victor Young classic, “My Foolish Heart,” finds the singer wading deliberately into the song’s undercurrent of romantic naivete, bringing a carefully crafted emphasis to the lyrics “There’s a line between love and fascination/That’s hard to see.” She uses the same emotionally attuned approach to Harold Arlen’s “A Sleepin’ Bee,” creating a charming suspense within the opening verse (“When you’re in love and you’re wonderin’ if he really is the one/There’s an ancient sign sure to tell you/That your search is over and done”) that cascades elegantly into the witty final chorus (“A sleepin’ bee done told me that I’ll walk with my feet on the ground/When my one true love I have found”). Such moments of narrative shape and tension are peppered delightfully throughout this disc, and Shulman, a gifted storyteller, brings them to life with a commanding presence.
L.A. Jazz Scene (4/16)
Deborah Shulman’s My Heart’s In The Wind, which was recorded in 2007, is being officially released for the first time. Ms. Shulman has a high voice that is quite effective throughout this program of ballads. Through the placement of her notes and the way that she interprets (and sometimes caresses) the lyrics, the singer makes each song her own. Pianist Terry Trotter and guitarist Larry Koonse are on most of the 11 songs while four of the performances also add bassist Ken Wild and drummer Joe LaBarbera. Each of the musicians is quite sympathetic to the singer with Koonse’s harmonically advanced ideas working quite well. Among the highpoints of this often-touching set are “My Foolish Heart,” a medium-tempo “My One And Only Love,” “Never Never Land” (taken as a duet with Koonse”) and “Where Do I Go From Here.” My Heart’s In The Wind is available from www.summitrecords.com.”
Vocalist Deborah Shulman keeps it soft and gentle here on this collection with supple support by Terry Trotter/p, Larry Koonse/g, Ken Wild/b and Joe LaBarbera/dr. She plays it smart by using her torchy voice for tunes that have not worn out their welcome. A clever selection of Tom Waits’ “Shiver Me Timbers” has her joined with Koonse’s acoustic guitar, while Trotter’s reflective piano glows on “This Hotel.” The mood here is delicate and quiet, as on a dainty read of “A Sleepin’ Bee” and a soft shoe brush work by LaBarbera on a waltzing “Sometime Ago.” Songs that sound like flickering candles are emphasized here.
W. Royal Stokes
A selection of ballads presented very attractively by a singer with a rich and warm voice. Deborah Shulman’s previous albums include Get Your Kicks: The Music & Lyrics Of Bobby Troup, and 2 For The Road, on which she sings with Terry Trotter who also plays on this new release. Deborah not only performs as singer but also as actor, and has sung and acted in a National Company production of Cats. Her repertoire on this Summit Records release includes Never-Never Land,Loving You, Where Do I Go From Here, This Hotel, A Sleepin’ Bee,You Are There, and The Shining Sea. Some of these songs come from Broadway, some from Hollywood, others from the Great American Songbook and while all are familiar none is overused. Deborah interprets lyrics with care and understanding, the liner notes (by Thomas Cunliffe) revealing that some of the music here mirrors the singer’s loving relationship with her late parents and the resulting emotional undertow adds immeasurably to the occasion. In addition to pianist Terry Trotter, Deborah is accompanied by guitarist Larry Koonse, bassist Ken Wild and drummer Joe LaBarbera, although these four instrumentalists appear together on only four tracks. This spare accompaniment results in uncluttered arrangements that draw in the listener, making the experience one of unforced intimacy. The songs can thus be heard on different levels – the listener can not only share the singer’s feelings but can also bring to them his or her own emotional response. This is a vocal skill possessed by very few singers. A very pleasing album that will be enjoyed by those who like jazz singers and more widely by anyone who likes good songs sung well.
Jazz Music Archive (12/15)
“It takes a lot of courage for a vocalist to record an album of all ballads, no other song form puts a vocalist’s skills on the line like a slow moving test of one’s ability to not only develop a melodic line, but to do so with a convincing emotional tone. On “My Heart’s in the Wind,” Deborah Shulman doesn’t shy away from this challenge and delivers a successful collection of mostly quiet and introspective vocal reflections. Only two numbers on here hit any kind of toe-tapping tempo, all the rest are delivered in a vocalist-centered legato rubato with an intuitive laid back combo backing every word. Shulman’s main accompanists on here are Larry Koonse on guitar and Terry Trotter on piano, both of whom support her with imagination and sensitivity. The way the two instrumentalists interact with each other is joyfully loose and even somewhat cluttered in a good way. It’s nice the two are not overly polite and sterile in their interactions. Both musicians also deliver a couple of clever solos as well.
Much of Shulman’s emotional conviction comes across in these songs because she hand-picked each one as a personal reflection of not only her own life, but also the lives and love of her departed parents. Tracks such as “Loving You” and “You are There” are tributes to her parent’s relationship and the memories of Shulman’s family life. The non-pretentious tone of this album is furthered by the fact that every track was recorded live without a trace of studio trickery. Summit Records in general should be praised for their ongoing commitment to production values that put an artist’s personal skills over studio gimmicks.
The material covered on here is well considered and devoid of anything overplayed. The ‘Great American Songbook’, Broadway and movies are all sources for Schulman’s selections, with a few surprises included, such as “This Hotel”, from the film, “Hotel”. Top track may be the infectious “Sleepin Bee”. This is a great vocal album that sets a mood for those long winter nights that surround us during this time of year.
Music Log (12/15)
Jazz singer Deborah Shulman’s new CD, My Heart’s In The Wind, has a warm, late-night and intimate feel. Like to escape the cold you’ve stumbled into some wonderful after hours place, where the alcohol flows freely, while the cold winds continue outside. And as the night goes on, things become more intimate, and you’re in no hurry to leave this place – and no one’s asking you to anyway. On this CD she is joined by Terry Trotter on piano, Larry Koonse on guitar, Ken Wild on bass and Joe LaBarbera on drums. Terry Trotter also did the arrangements and co-produced the album with Deborah Shulman. This album was actually recorded in 2007, and released in a limited edition at that time, with a different album cover. (Though both show her on a boat, I actually prefer the original cover, which has a more romantic image.) Now, with this new release, a wider audience gets the chance to enjoy this music. The CD includes liner notes by Thomas Cunniffe.
The album opens with “The Shining Sea,” written by Johnny Mandel and Peggy Lee. I really love Deborah Shulman’s version, which has a great warmth. The version I’ve heard by Peggy Lee has more of an orchestral arrangement, and I actually prefer this more intimate and immediate rendition, which has some sweet, delicate playing on keys, as well some nice touches on bass. “I can’t believe he’s gone/I think I’ll go where he might be/I’ll go/I need him so/I need our shining sea.” She follows that with a pretty and catchy version of “A Sleepin’ Bee,” with Terry Trotter and Larry Koonse working so well together supporting Shulman’s vocals. And the instrumental section is excellent. “A Sleepin’ Bee” was written by Harold Arlen and Truman Capote, and has been recorded by many artists over the years, including Mel Tormé, Julie Andrews and Tony Bennett.
Terry Trotter begins “My Foolish Heart” sweetly on piano, and then Deborah’s vocals are gorgeous and moving. “There’s a line between love and fascination/That’s hard to see on an evening such as this/For they both give the very same sensation/When you’re lost in the magic of a kiss/His lips are much too close to mine/Beware, my foolish heart.” And then Larry Koonse suddenly comes in for a delicious lead part on guitar halfway through. “My Foolish Heart” was written by Victor Young and Ned Washington. Another highlight is her rendition of “My One And Only Love.” I love what Deborah Shulman does with this song, making it her own. There is an honesty and intimacy in her approach. Plus, Larry Koonse does some interesting and surprising things in his lead part on guitar. And I love what Terry Trotter and Joe LaBarbera do on “Sometime Ago,” perhaps the lightest track on this release.
When I was in sixth or seventh grade, I had a teacher who played these educational records that were supposed to teach us about events in history. I just remember that a booming voice would say, “You are there,” right at the start of each one. It always struck me as funny, and I can’t recall anything else about those records. Well, on this album, Deborah Shulman covers “You Are There,” a song written by Dave Frishberg and Johnny Mandel. The song has absolutely nothing to do with those educational records, but Johnny Frishberg did write “I’m Just A Bill” from the Schoolhouse Rock program. So there. Deborah Shulman delivers another excellent vocal performance on “You Are There.” “My dearest dream is gone/I often think there’s just one thing to do/Pretend the dream is true/And tell myself that you are there.” There is such love in her voice, somehow giving a sort of happiness to what could be very depressing lines.
The album concludes with “Shiver Me Timbers.” It might surprise you to find a Tom Waits composition on a CD that includes songs from Stephen Sondheim and Johnny Mandel, but Deborah Shulman does a good job with it. “Shiver Me Timbers” originally appeared on Tom Waits’ 1974 record, The Heart Of Saturday Night. Deborah Shulman sings “And I know Joe Conrad/Will be proud of me” instead of “And I know Martin Eden’s/Gonna be proud of me.” By the way, this is the song that gives this CD its title.
Emotions pour out on Deborah Shulman’s latest release on Summit Records titled “My Heart’s In The Wind.” She covers such lovely ballads such as “The Shining Sea,” “My One And Only Love,” and “My Foolish Heart,” among other great standards from the Great American Songbook.
Ms. Shulman entertains you in a lovely multi-octave voice that captures the sensitive stories behind the songs and experiences in her life. Her stellar band is made up of some of the best musicians on the West Coast including Terry Trotter on piano, Larry Koonse on guitar, Ken Wild on bass and Joe LaBarbera on drums. Each of the songs holds very special meanings for Deborah Shulman and as the consummate interpreter of lyrics, she holds you captive from beginning to end as she and her ensemble deliver the beauty and heartfelt sentiment of each song.
Among the highlights is her amazing phrasing on “My Foolish Heart”, and her rich, velvety melodic variations on “My One and Only Love.” All of these songs are lovely and you’re sure to be fascinated by Deborah Schulman’s vocals and the exemplary accompaniment of her band.
Deborah Schulman’s selection of songs from such Broadway musicals and film scores as Comden & Green’s “Never Never Land,” “Where Do I Go From Here,” from Fiorello! and “This Hotel,” from the 1967 film Hotel also make this recording worth listening to.
My Heart’s In the Wind is artful, intimate and sophisticated and deserves your attention from start to finish. It makes the perfect companion for quiet nights by the fireplace or for slow dancing with that special someone. Check it out.
Jersey Jazz (1/16)
“Shulman is an exceptional vocalist, surrounded by terrific musicians, singing marvelous songs, and the result is a recording that will surely be played by you many, many times.”
My Heart’s in the Wind (Summit – 671) is the fourth in a series of outstanding albums by DEBORAH SHULMAN. Her last album was an exploration of the hip songs written by Bobby Troup. On this recording, actually made in 2007, she takes the ballad route, and does so quite nicely. Her vocal timbre is different, and her phrasing is a bit less jazzy, but there is something about Shulman’s singing and choice of songs that recalls Irene Kral. Among the selections are “The Shining Sea,” “Loving You” from Stephen Sondheim’s Passion, “This Hotel,” a song written for the film Hotel, “You Are There,” a Johnny Mandel/Dave Frishberg tune that was memorably recorded by Kral, “Where Do I Go From Here,” a song cut from Fiorello, and “Shiver Me Timbers” by Tom Waits. Accompanying Shulman are Terry Trotter on piano, Larry Koonse on guitar, Ken Wild on bass and Joe LaBarbera on drums in various combinations. While it has taken eight years to get this album into general release, it is worth the wait. Shulman is an exceptional vocalist, surrounded by terrific musicians, singing marvelous songs, and the result is a recording that will surely be played by you many, many times. (www.summitrecords.com)
All About Jazz (1/16)
My Heart’s In The Wind is a modest and muted affair, understated in nature yet emotionally stirring in its own way. It’s a collection of music that speaks directly to intimacy, loss, and the bends in life’s road. The eleven tracks presented on this quiet beauty tap into a variety of emotions, with love, sadness, mourning, life’s vagaries, and the grip of memory all serving as wellsprings of creativity for Los Angeles-based vocalist Deborah Shulman.
Shulman’s parents passed away exactly six months apart from each other, and much of this music seems to serve as her coping mechanism for dealing with those devastating losses. Stephen Sondheim’s “Loving You,” touchingly performed here with sensitive backing from guitarist Larry Koonse, recalls a moment when Shulman and her father bonded over their mutual loss and love while attending a performance of the composer’s Passion; “You Are There” is a fond look back at times spent with the dearly departed; and Tom Waits’ “Shiver Me Timbers” tells the tale of life and the great beyond as painted upon water. While spread out across the album, all three numbers form a suite of sorts. In other places—”My Foolish Heart,” an emotionally resonating, piano initiated “Where Do I Go From Here,” a casually waltzing “Sometime Ago”—Shulman explores the complicated nature of love in other shapes. These songs are perspective-rich mini-dramas, expertly sculpted and thoroughly dissected.
Shulman’s theater background and extreme poise push a good amount of this material away from jazz territory and toward the realm of cabaret singing and modern art song, but those who travel with her help to balance the scales a bit. Pianist Terry Trotter, who arranged all of the material and co-produced the album with Shulman, is classy as can be, whether soloing or serving in a support role; Koonse adds a dab of the unexpected, both in his solo work and his accompaniment; and bassist Kenny Wild and drummer Joe LaBarbera provide light touch support when they appear.
This album was recorded in 2007, but it lived life in limbo for quite a while: a label that Shulman was under contract with at the time never put it out, and, despite her best efforts, Shulman wasn’t able to get the music very far with a limited self-release campaign. While it’s easy to understand how a ballad-centric record that refuses to look at love with rose-colored glasses and examines the intersections between life and death isn’t an easy sell, music as fine as this deserves to be heard. So kudos to Summit Records for releasing it.
Playing Around (1/16)
I was completely unfamiliar with this vocalist when her music came wafting my way. West coast based Deborah Shulman is an actor/singer and vocal coach. This is her third CD. It shimmers.
Ballad after ballad, including several unknown to me, emerge with dreamy, contemplative nuance. Consonants are softened, lyrics sighed forth. Accompaniment is so delicate, I wonder it’s achieved by something as clumsy as fingers. This is an unabashedly sentimental journey during which it’s easy to lose oneself in personal, sometimes melancholy memories. Pour yourself a glass of wine and curl up.
“The Shining Sea” (Johnny Mandel/Peggy Lee) is languid and rich. Piano emulates white wave caps, small frissons. I see her sitting at a window or on a porch, reeds below slightly bending in the sand; as iconic as an Edward Hopper painting. “My Foolish Heart” (Victor Young/Ned Washington) is another internal conversation, this one buoyed on fluid guitar. I think I hear gratitude and surprise.
Stephen Sondheim’s gorgeous “Loving You” (from Passion) is given its due. The song arrives with gravitas, truth. One can feel the exhilaration and also the weight of such extreme emotion. I recall something my mother advised, “Hold tightly with an open hand.” “Never Never Land” (Betty Comden/Adolph Green/Jule Stein from Peter Pan) is unquestionably a lullaby; pristine, comforting, warm, perhaps a little sad as sung by an adult past flight.
“A Sleepin’ Bee” (Harold Arlen/Truman Capote) and “Sometime Ago” (Sergio Mihanovich) are the only two numbers performed in casual, mid-tempo swing. During the first, one imagines happily kicking a stone down a wooded path while the second evokes raised eyebrows and sophisticated resignation: Now I’m discovering/As I’m recovering/Love was really just a game/But we’re the only ones to blame.
“This Hotel” (Johnny Keating/Richard Quine) is cinematic. A greying woman, having left family behind, returns to find yellowing wallpaper and cigarette burned carpet in the room she last saw her one true love. “Where Do I Go From Here?” (Jerry Bock/Sheldon Harnick from Fiorello) is a blanket of blue tenderness. Tom Waits’ “Shiver Me Timbers” is elegiac. I could listen to this one on a loop.
My solitary quibble with the disc, and this is admittedly after having basked in its muted pleasures – it’s too much the same. Arrangements verge on interchangeable. With this kind of talent, stunning effect could, I think, be secured with variation. Romantics should nonetheless click on the CD cover or the title below to purchase.
Deborah Shulman has disarmingly lovely voice. Her musicians are completely symbiotic.
Bebop Spoken Here (1/16)
At first listening I dismissed this as boring perfection. After further listening, and washing my ears with Grandma’s Lye Soap, I removed the adjective. This is as close to a perfect interpretation of choice, mainly contemporary, songbook items as you are likely to hear this week/month/year (delete as applicable). Emotive takes that bring out the lyricist’s intent perhaps even more than the guy intended!
If you want a yardstick, think Shirley Horn. The same laid back approach that digs deep into the words. Horn was more an out and out jazz performer. Shulman dips her toe only slightly in the muddy water here (although on other discs such as her Bobby Troup tribute she leaves no doubts!) preferring instead to grace the material with her distinct approach – a sort of Broadway after Dark, maybe a late night club in the Village trying something a little different on a quiet night.
No shortage of jazz amongst the boys in the band. Trotter, Koonse, Wild and the legendary Joe La Barbera keep the pot simmering at just the right temperature.
Shining Sea; A Sleeping Bee; My Foolish Heart; Loving You (Sondheim); My One and Only Love; Never Never Land; Some Time Ago; This Hotel; You Are there; Where Do I Go From Here? and Tom Waits’ Shiver Me Timbers tells you what it’s all about.
Originally recorded in 2007 it took some finagling to finally get it on the shelves and online but it’s out there later this month (Jan. 12) on Summit Records.
Midwest Record (1/16)
Sometimes you just have to go off the beaten track. The vocal coast for Ronstadt, David Lee Roth and Jennifer Warnes among many others, Shulman rounds up some first call, underexposed west coast jazzbos for a cabaret inspired trip through the American songbook that stands proudly next to anything the Callaway gals could summon up. Seemingly targeted toward cabaret tastes, this well wrought vocal set is a treat not to be missed by anyone not afraid to open their ears beyond their normal comfort zone. Well done.
D. Oscar Groomes
O’s Place Jazz Magazine (11/13)
Seasoned vocalist Deborah Shulman wraps her voice around some of the best songs written by Bobby Troup. Producer Ted Howe plays a vibrant piano behind her leading a trio with Kevin Axt (b) and Dave Tull (d). This is a great throwback album with classics like “Route 66”, “Girl Talk” and the title track. The arrangements are jazzed up and fun including generous solos.
Start with a deep sophisticated, smokey, sensual voice, add Sinatra level phrasing and you have the marvelous talent of Deborah Shulman. She is swinging with The Ted Howe Trio on a new album “Get Your Kicks: The Music of Bobby Troup. Deborah Shulman is a jazz singer, recording artist, musical theater artist, and vocal coach with an eclectic, international resume who has recorded four CD’s: Get Your Kicks, released in June 2013, 2 For The Road, My Heart’s In The Wind, and Lost In The Stars.
On the “Get Your Kicks” album, she sings 11 Bobby Troup tunes….naturally topping the list is Troup’s first and biggest hit “Route 66.” (Watch the video with our shipboard retelling of how Troup and the first Mrs. Bobby Troup wrote the song together on their post-war cross country trip to LA from Lancaster, Pennsylvania.) Two other Troup tunes that have become certified members of the Great America Songbook….Daddy and Girl Talk get star treatment from Deborah and the excellent The Ted Howe Trio. Our favorite of the other lesser know Bobby Troup songs is the clever “Nice Girls Don’t Stay For Breakfast.”
Vocalist Deborah Shulman wanted Get Your Kicks to be “a jazz album with a party vibe,” which is something far different from her previous record—the wonderful (and weightier) Lost In The Stars: The Music Of Bernstein, Weill & Sondheim (Summit Records, 2012). The differing moods of each album, ultimately, reflect the musical nature of the composer(s) being covered; Bernstein, Weill, and Sondheim have “serious” written over much of their respective work while Troup’s tunes belong to a cooler school.
The title of this album references Troup’s most famous song, the immortal “Route 66,” but that’s hardly the only music of note that came from his pen; many people forget that he also wrote “Daddy,” “Meaning Of The Blues,” “Lemon Twist” and the lyrics to Neal Hefti’s “Girl Talk.” Shulman explores all of those numbers and more during this delightful Troup travelogue.
Get Your Kicks is an outgrowth of a theatrical Troup tribute show that Shulman and pianist Ted Howe started performing at clubs in 2009, so it makes sense that Howe is at the helm here; he arranged all eleven tunes on the date, from the funky “Route 66” rewrite to the smile-inducing “The Three Bears” to the less-than-cheery “Girl Talk.” In each instance, Howe finds a way to amplify the meaning of the song through his writing without completely obscuring the known quantities associated with the music; that’s no easy feat, but he makes it look easy.
The aforementioned desire to make this into a “party vibe” platter is realized in songs like “Route 66,” “Daddy,” “Baby All The Time,” “Lemon Twist” and “The Three Bears,” but countered with numbers like “February Brings The Rain” and “Meaning Of The Blues.” Those diversions from the set course ultimately help to bring balance to a record that could have gone a bit too far in the desired direction.
Shulman’s vocals are terrific throughout. She can be spunky, seductive or sedate, depending on what the song requires, and she almost always get the heart of the matter. The only place where she sounds a bit boxed in is during “Daddy.” The song’s lighthearted nature is lost in this funky and forceful reading. Everything else on the record feels just right, as Shulman, Howe and the superb-and-sensitive rhythm combo of drummer Dave Tull and bassist Kevin Axt come together to form the ultimate Troup troop.
Get Your Kicks: The Music and Lyrics of Bobby Troup
George W. Harris
I know it’s a sin to envy, but it takes a lot of will power not to be jealous of the life of Bobby Troup. He wrote a bunch of hit songs that earned him a ton of cash, married a dish in Julie London, and even made cameo appearances of TV shows like Mannix. Not a bad gig, and mature toned vocalist Deborah Shulman does an impressive job in bringing back into focus a bagful of Troup’s goodies.
Of course, you’ve got the biggies like “Route 66″ and “Girl Talk,” but she and her trio give them different hues, with the former delivered in an almost hip-hop fashion and the latter coming across as a conversation at Starbucks. “Three Little Bears” is coy and bouncy, while “Daddy” has a peppy 60s pop feel to it. While you may groan over no inclusion of “The Girl Can’t Help It,” bluesy late night dealings of “Baby all the Time” and “Meaning of the Blues” make up for it.” She’s got an alluringly clear enunciation as well as a gentle swing to her timing. Guess she just couldn’t help it that she was born to please…
Get Your Kicks: The Music and Lyrics of Bobby Troup
Jersey Jazz (8/13)
The last album from vocalist DEBORAH SHULMAN was a collection of songs by Leonard Bernstein, Kurt Weill and Stephen Sondheim. This time out, she has gone in a distinctly different direction, from Broadway to songs by one of the hippest songwriters ever, Bobby Troup. Albums of songs by Troup are rare indeed, the only others that I am aware of are by Troup himself and Mark Winkler. Shulman’s Get Your Kicks: The Music & Lyrics of Bobby Troup (Summit – 607) is a winner. Shulman gets it when it comes to singing Troup. She is hip when called for, poignant if that is the way she should be, sexy and naughty if appropriate, and always embraces humor in those lyrics that only Troup could have written. Her support comes from the Ted Howe Trio, with Howe on piano, Kevin Axt on bass and Dave Tull on drums. Howe also did the spot on arrangements with a lot of input from Shulman. Some of the tunes will be familiar to most listeners, “Route 66,” “Daddy,” “Baby, Baby All the Time” and “Girl Talk” have had many recordings. “You’re Looking at Me,” “Lemon Twist,” “It Happened Once Before” and “Meaning of the Blues” are some under the radar songs that have found their way to some of the more perspicacious singers. “Nice Girls Don’t Stay for Breakfast” and “February Brings the Rain” are most associated with Julie London, Mrs. Bobby Troup, while “The Three Bears” was a hit for Page Cavanaugh. Given her effectiveness with Troup’s material, she might look into paying similar attention to Matt Dennis, Murray Grand or Charles DeForest, others who wrote great songs that deserve the kind of exposure that Shulman gives to Bobby Troup with this terrific album.
Get Your Kicks: The Music and Lyrics of Bobby Troup
Michael C. Bailey
All About Jazz (7/13)
Songwriter Bobby Troup was a master at composing conversational lyrics, and vocalist Deborah Shulman is a master at interpreting such lyrics. That the two come together on Get Your Kicks: The Music and Lyrics of Bobby Troup should be no surprise; also, it is about time that Troup received an homage treatment like this. His lyrics were always 1950s chic, written in a day before political correctness ended the evolution and expansion of the Great American Songbook. What Shulman does is bring an honest understanding of both a music and its period of popularity.
Ted Howe joins Shulman again after their collaboration with trombonist Larry Zalkind on Lost In The Stars: The Music Of Bernstein, Weill & Sondheim (Summit, 2012). Here, leading his trio, Howe’s approach to arrangement is striking and illustrated in the rather dark “Route 66” and pathologically forlorn “Nice Girls Don’t Stay For Breakfast.” In Shulman’s hands these are ballads of experience—too much, in fact, rather than a blushing socialite after an evening tryst.
One of Troup’s most striking and controversial songs, “Girl Talk” is give a golden treatment, with Shulman navigating the period’s sexism and making the song more ironic than a 1950s vision of women in the Eisenhower era. Get Your Kicks: The Music and Lyrics of Bobby Troup is a wholly conceived project by two masters at the top of their respective games.
Get Your Kicks
The Jazz Page.com (6/13)
On her fourth recording release, vocalist Deborah Shulman is joined by the Ted Howe Trio for a really pleasing tribute to great composer and lyricist Bobby Troup. In Shulman, you have an experienced singer who knows her way around a song. In Howe, you have a very talented arranger and bandleader who creates really engaging arrangements of tunes. They work really well together. The project swings nicely and slows down just as well. Also helping to make a good thing better are the other members of the trio, Dave Tull on drums and Kevin Axt on bass. The talented unit, along with the lead, provide an extremely entertaining homage to a great American talent.
Deborah Shulman, vocals.
Jazz Society of Oregon (6/13)
If you’re somewhere in my age range, surely you remember Bobby Troup. If you don’t know of him, don’t miss this chance to hear his songs. Troup was a classy, smoky, small jazz bar type of pianist who was also blessed with an ultra-hip singing voice. In addition, he turned out some delightful melodies and lyrics, did some acting and, lucky guy, was married to Julie London. In fact, it was she who originally sang some of these while Bobby did others. Well, all these years later, along comes a singer named Deborah Shulman to do honor to the “Troup book,” and she does so with solid accompaniment from the Ted Howe Trio. I’ll bet you remember titles like “You’re Looking at Me,” “Daddy,” “Baby, Baby All the Time,” “Girl Talk,” “The Meaning of the Blues” and Troup’s mega-hit, “Route 66.” On all these and more, Shulman takes care in never putting too much frosting on the cake. After all, it’s a recipe which enjoys a solid place in American jazz history.
Nicholas F. Mondello
All About Jazz (6/13)
In the vicinity of Staunton, Illinois, a short strip of asphalt heretofore known as “Route 66” lies silently abandoned. A local wag once suggested that the ghost remnant be pulverized into bits and sold to nostalgia types, with a wealth to be had—probably by the wag. Whether or not a fortune is to be made with vocalist Deborah Shulman’s Get Your Kicks: The Music and Lyrics of Bobby Troup remains to be seen, but this recording is a treasure trove of talent.
Much has been written about Bobby Troup: his personal, musical, and television lives, and his spirit-drenched oeuvre. For decades, his compositions have been explored musically by artists across the genre spectrum. Rarely, however, have they been sent up with the flair, originality, and intelligence presented here.
Shulman is a highly engaging vocalist and revered vocal coach for artist including Bette Midler and Linda Ronstadt. Here, she steps into a welcoming spotlight and is the perfect rhapsode for the shrewd lyrics and melodies Bestowed by Troup. Her rhythmic and melodically savvy approach, perfect diction and phrasing make Troup’s lines shine even brighter. And, with marvelously inventive arrangements and superb backing of pianist Ted Howe and his trio, the entire quartet frames and delivers the material impeccably.
The selections range from the expected—a neat hip-rock “Route 66” and the Material Girls’ anthem, “Daddy”—to Troup’s lesser-recorded material, including a stunningly beautiful rendition of “February Brings the Rain” and a slick-chick “Nice Girls Don’t Stay for Breakfast.” As these and the other selections unfold, two things are readily apparent: Shulman’s overall talent sends the material out of the park, and Howe’s original arrangements (“Girl Talk”) and impeccable accompaniment and soloing soar. Bassist Kevin Axt and drummer Dave Tull support tastefully, and they all swing.
While kicks “just keep getting harder to find,” and if sterile Interstates have driven “The Mother Road” into obsolescence (with the aforementioned wag dreaming on), Get Your Kicks is indeed and in deed a Troup tour de force, no ’60s Corvette required.
Track Listing: You’re Lookin’ at Me; Route 66; Nice Girls Don’t Stay for Breakfast; Daddy; Baby All the Time; Girl Talk; Lemon Twist; February Brings the Rain; The Three Bears; It Happened Once Before; Meaning of the Blues.
Deborah Shulman & the Ted Howe Trio
Mark S. Tucker
Folk & Acoustic Music Exchange (6/13)
Bobby Troup’s one of those cats who kinda sorta got somewhat lost in the shuffle in that talent-n-luck circus calling itself ‘Hollywood’—not terribly dis-served, mind you, but never quite recognized for his most shining virtue: some very good song writing. He was a quite the exponent of West Coast Cool, and no one forgets the immortal (Get Your Kicks on) Route 66, the theme to the television series (1960-1964), but didja know it first made a hit by Nat King Cole in 1946? Yep, few realize it, but the track was 14 years old by the time the show appeared. More, that’s his The Girl Can’t Help It you hear Little Richard singing in the 50s rock & roll film of the same name. But Troup was also an actor portraying, among other roles, Dr. Joe Early opposite his second wife, actress / torch singer Julie London, in the TV series Emergency. Then, when you again catch The Gene Krupa Story, pay attention to the Tommy Dorsey character—that’s Troup. ‘Member Robert Altman’s MASH movie? ‘Member that guy wandering through the film uttering just that one line “Goddam Army!”? That’s Bobby as well.
But Hollywood and the entire media swamp can be fickle bitches, and Troup never saw commercial musical success under his own aegis despite releasing a dozen LPs from 1955 to 1959 through various labels, afterwards never issuing material though he lived another four decades. Thus, Deborah Shulman and Ted Howe decided it was high time the man’s work was put back into circulation. A trio format became the ideal choice, bringing out the martini / nightclub / swinging / literate hipster vibe most vividly. Shulman modulates everything to be more on the side of theater-cool and reflective than boppy—though there’s plenty of that as well—as though Get Your Kicks were a review travelling back and forth between off-Broadway and your living room.
The charting Girl Talk is here made a good deal more serious, more wistful, mistier. Julie London covered it in her vampy wonderful way but Shulman’s version is almost Romance academic, a philosophical approach, darker, more realistic. Well, you know how those beatniks were—into existentialism, Sartre, that sort of thing. The singer balances between the popularized version and a latterday Byronic pensée, Howe’s piano perfectly underwriting both attitudes, a bit glacial, some sunlight here, shadows and fog there, even the edges of atonal neurosis. So, hm, yeah, you may have thought Troup was an adjunct of the media machine, but there was a lot more there than surface readings indicate. Lemon Twist repeats the Girl Talk double entendre, advocating alcoholism via spurious scientific health advice via “the habit of lemon twist”, code for martinis and cocktails.
In that Madison Avenue pitch, Shulman and crew bop along in a Mad Men two-step, but is it a joy peripatetic or parody? February Brings the Rain follows after and speaks of “winter’s icy chains” and “gay champagne” in a deep grey funk. “The world was yours and mine” quotha Troup, but Shulman brings that lie out, quite as the writer had intended, in no uncertain terms. Have a quaalude or two handy when you listen to it. Repair, I say, to The Three Bears if you want light finger-snapping entertainment, but beware some of the rest. The pristine period arrangements and Deb’s melodious encantations are seductive, rightly so, that’s part of the game, but in hip breezy asides is where some of the most sly material resides. It’s highly likely you’ll, more than once, hear a cut and shout “Man, that is sooooo cool!”, then, a minute later, mutter “Hey…wait a minute……!”.
Midwest Record (6/13)
True story that has nothing to do with Shulman. Quite a while back, I had a client that wanted me to help him contract a tribute album to Bobby Troup. I went back and forth as the go between, often calling Troup at home with the phone being answered by his wife. It wasn’t until several calls into this volley that I realized I was talking to Julie London. How cool was that? Maybe you had to be there. A family friend of the Troups by marriage, Shulman brings a built in affinity to the music pulling off a killer 180 degree turn from last year’s Kurt Weill album showing she can deliver the hits to all fields and is no one trick pony. Expertly capturing the late night hipster vibe of martini fueled days gone by, Shulman and Howe are here to get inside the music and deliver it properly, which they do a great job of. A dandy revitalization of one of the pop master craftsmen, this is top shelf throughout. Well done.
Deborah Shulman & The Ted Howe Trio
If all you know about the music of Bobby Troup is his “Route 66” road saga and the kittenish “Daddy,” songstress Deborah Shulman’s latest album, Get Your Kicks: The Music & Lyrics of Bobby Troup, will be a delightful introduction. Certainly the Troup songbook is not as ubiquitous as that of a Cole Porter or a Sammy Kahn, and that is our loss. His music deserves better, and Deborah Shulman delivers. Listen to Shulman’s coy flirtatious interpretations and you’ll begin to get an idea of what you’ve been missing,
Shulman says that other than “Route 66,” she hadn’t been familiar with the music before she got involved in the project. But she knew that her husband had been a friend of the Troup family, and thought it would “be fun to explore the connection.” They were given access to the family’s musical library. “It was like going on a treasure hunt,” she explains, and the 11 tunes eventually chosen for the disc are treasures she, along with her pianist arranger Ted Howe and his trio, has made her own.
Shulman opens with a mischievous version of “You’re Looking at Me,” followed by a wild romp through “Route 66,” which features a lot of cool bass. Between the two, they set the party tone for the rest of the album. “Nice Girls Don’t Stay for Breakfast,” delivered with a vocal wink, echoes with delicious irony, and she swings with the trio in a dynamic, upbeat “Daddy” that even gets a little raucous as it ends.
Indeed, the singer packs all of the ballads on the CD with an honesty born, she indicates, from her own “marriage collapse.” Her bluesy “Baby All the Time” that builds to a dynamite dramatic climax is one of the album’s highlights. Bleak though they are, “February Brings the Rain” and “The Meaning of the Blues” are gorgeous tunes sung with intensity. “It Happened Once Before” looks at the emotional peril involved in making a new romantic commitment. The trio—Howe on piano, Kevin Axt on bass and Dave Tull on drums—adds some elegant solo work through all of the ballads.
“The Three Bears” is a whimsical take on the children’s story and “Lemon Twist” goes for some witty word play, backed up by some equally witty solo work from the trio. “Girl Talk,” the one song on the album for which Troup only wrote the lyrics (the music is by Neal Hefti) gets a much more haunting, or as the liner notes describe it, darker treatment in Howe’s arrangement than it usually gets.
“I wanted this to be a jazz album with a party vibe. I wanted this to be a jazz album, with no crossover.” If that’s what Deborah Shulman intended, she hit the mark. This is an album that will have you smiling.
There are 11 songs on this disc including: Three Bears, Route 66, Girl Talk, February Brings The Rain and my favorite Daddy. Shulman has a strong voice and has fine vocal tones. She is not only a singer and recording artist, but a vocal coach as well. She displays quite a range going from the melancholy tone of Meaning of Blues to the charged up Lemon Twist. She is not afraid to put her stamp on a song.
Howe adds such fine piano work and Tull is splendid on the drums and percussion When you add up the ingredients, you have a nice selection of music. It is a pleasure listening to this CD and hopefully there will be more in the works from Shulman. You can follow her website which is http://www.deborahshulman.com. I hope you that you will give this one a listen. I think you will be glad you did.
Deborah Shulman & The Ted Howe Trio
Jazz should be fun…More passion, less academia. Deborah Shulman & The Ted Howe Trio blow the dust off the West Coast cool sound which seems to have been hiding out in the jazz witness protection program to tackle the work of iconic songwriter Bobby Troup.
Shulman digs deep in the Troup catalog and turns in wonderful performances on such little known works as “February Brings The Rain” and “It Happened Once Before.” The Ted Howe trio brings together an A list of top self accompanists with terrific arrangements all delivered with that special something that made the work of Bobby Troup stand the test of time. Naturally no good tribute type release would be complete here without such memorable tunes as “Route 66” and the classic “Girl Talk.” Shulman displays that special gift of immediate connectivity with an audience and goes from singer to vocal artist in the blink of an eye. Ted Howe’s arrangements seal the deal with an inventive style that helps breath a second life into some timeless classics.
Female vocalists are a tightly clustered pack of talented artists that on occasion can get a little “one note” thanks to the influence of shows such as American Idol and The Voice. Deborah Shulman brings a warm tone with impeccable phrasing with perhaps the best compliment being she does not sound like anyone but herself and that my friends is a beautiful thing!
Solid. Well thought out and incredibly entertaining!
Salt Lake Magazine
Concertgoers in Salt Lake City know Larry Zalkind as the long time principle trombone of the Utah Symphony. Most, however, probably don’t know that he is a talented jazz musician, too.
Anyone who doubts that should take a listen to the CD Lost in the Stars, on Summit Records. It’s a family collaboration between Zalkind and his sister-in-law, vocalist Deborah Shulman. The album is a wonderful collection of 14 songs by three giants of American musical theater — Leonard Bernstein, Stephen Sondheim and Kurt Weill.
It contains some of the biggest hits by the three, including Bernstein’s “Something’s Coming” and “I Feel Pretty” (West Side Story); Sondheim’s “The Ladies Who Lunch” (Company); and Weill’s “Mack the Knife” (The Threepenny Opera), “September Song” (Knickerbocker Holiday) and “Lost in the Stars,” from the musical of the same name.
All of these songs are given a laid back treatment by Shulman, sometimes quite unexpectedly. After all, one doesn’t think of the edgy “Mack the Knife” as low key. But it works; Shulman’s sophisticated vocal stylings and the mellow and warm quality of her voice serve these tunes well. And Shulman knows how to sell them. Even though the songs on this disc are well known, and have been frequently recorded by many singers over the years, she has the uncanny ability to make them sound fresh and new, which is always welcome.
The well-conceived arrangements also underscore Shulman’s many strengths as a singer; they afford her solid support by the band and put her squarely in the forefront, where she rightly deserves to be. She can certainly carry the weight of each song just by her compelling musical and technical chops alone, not to mention the fluid lyricism she brings to each and every song.
Speaking of the band, Shulman has a wonderful group of musicians backing her, with Zalkind figuring prominently. His mellifluous playing blends well with Shulman’s rich timbre, and together they bring depth, feeling and a broad palette of expressions to these delightful pieces. His smooth trombone sound brings well-balanced counterpoint to Shulman’s husky voice.
A highlight on the album is Zalkind’s striking performance of Weill’s “My Ship” from Lady in the Dark, in an instrumental arrangement for eight trombones that has Zalkind taking on each part.
On some of the tracks, Shulman and Zalkind are joined by Zalkind’s wife, Roberta Zalkind, associate principal viola of the Utah Symphony (and Shulman’s sister) and their son, Matthew Zalkind, a New York based cellist.
Lost in the Stars is an absolute delight from start to finish, and it can certainly appeal to both jazz and classical music lovers.
International Trombone Association Journal
Lost in the Stars is a wonderful project produced by Ted Howe. Vocalist Deborah Shulman, her brother-in-law
trombonist Larry Zalkind, and his wife and sone are joined by some of the finest musicians on the West Coast. They chose the sophisticated show tunes of Kurt Weill, Leonard Bernstein, and Stephen Sondheim. The mix of classical and jazz elements, the inventiveness of the arranging and the quality of the performances can best be described by the term often used by Duke Ellington, “Beyond Category.”
Arrangers Ted Howe, Terry Trotter, Jeff Colella, and Brad Warner have produced fourteen “gems.” No one of the performers are on every track. Sondheim’s Losing My Mind is an intimate musical dialogue between vocalist Shulman and pianist Trotter and Kurt Weill’s My Ship is an eight-part choir recorded by classically-trained trombonist Larry Zalkind. Only the opening two Bernstein tunes Larry Zalkind. Only the two opening Bernstein tunes Something’s Coming and Lucky To Be Me have the same personnel. The use of overdubbing and changing instruments make each make track unique.
Ted Howe’s arrangement and Shulman’s performance of Mack the Knife is not only in the style of the classic performances by Louis Armstrong and Bobby Darrin. This “Macky” has all of the suspense and foreboding that the lyrics imply. The Ravel-influenced accompaniment features some impressive intricate line – bravo!
I Feel Pretty is not the snappy show tune of Bernstein’s “Flower Drum Song” where a young lady discovers herself. Here it is the statement of a mature, sensual woman who is very comfortable in her own feminimity. Jeff Colellas uses the Zalkind family strings (wife Roberta, viola, and son Matthew, cello), and guitarist Larry Koonse to create the proper setting for Shulman’s sultry inflections.
If you are not familiar with Sondheim’s Leave You, you are in for a treat. Deborah crafts this class “break up” showstopper beautifully. Koonse’s tasty improvisation adds just the right touch.
This CD is a fine, rewarding musical adventure. The works of Kurt Weill, Leonard Bernstein, and Stephen Sondheim are a cut above the usual Tin Pan Alley fare. These are fourteen of the finest songs ever written. Arrangers Howe, Trotter, Colella, and Warner created settings that highlight the music and talents of the performers. Each arrangement is a study in instrumentation and every performance is superb. The accompanying musicians are always “in the pocket.” The improvisations are tasty. Shulman’s voice and the understanding of her craft shines throughout. Ted Howe spotlights Zalkind’s sound and musicianship with just the right musical touch. Hats off to all!
Deborah Shulman & Larry Zalkind: Lost in the Stars
George W. Harris
Subtitled “The Music of Bernstein, Weill & Sondheim,” this disc features vocalist Deborah Shulman and trombonist Larry Zalkind delivering mature and intelligent readings of some jazz standards as well as a few Broadway pieces in a variety of well crafted settings. Shulman’s voice is relaxed, warm, unrushed and patient, with a subtle sense of swing. The supporting team of Jeff Colella/p, Joe LaBarbera/dr and Larry Koonse/g mix and match with a variety of guests that bring cellos, violas and accordions. The arrangements are quite clever; a tangential take of “Something’s Coming” has the band touching the outskirts of the melody while Shulman gently graces the tune. Hints of the Weimer Republic crop up on an attractively restrained reading of “Mack the Knife” while a pastoral “Children Will Listen” emphasizes Shulman’s sense of wonder with a lyric. Zalkind’s trombone is understatedly rich and warm, embracing a brassy frame in the reading of “My Ship” while a “Losing My Mind” has a stark and vulnerable vocals with only Terry Trotter’s piano for protection. Impressive music and musings here.
Deborah Shulman and Larry Zalkind: Lost In The Stars -The Music Of Bernstein, Weill & Sondheim (2012)
The Art of the Torch Singer (England)
Lost in the Stars is a classy little jewel of an album. It takes a couple of listens for the sheer quality and uncluttered lustre of Deborah Shulman’s vocals to take hold, so understated and subtle are they. But once they have you in their thrall, they yield refined treasure.
The album is based on songs from a trinity of musical theatre composers – Weill, Bernstein and Sondheim – who need no further introduction. The delight is in the ease with which Shulman teases out nuances and revelations from numbers that you might think you know inside out.
There’s an eerie, unsettling version of “Mack the Knife”, for example, which sweeps you up into a little vortex of menace, light years from the bravado that most singers ladle on. And if “The Ladies Who Lunch” replaces the traditional self-scorning attack with a more observational, modulated treatment, it’s certainly a fresh approach to some of Sondheim’s most visceral lyrics. That clarity extends to “Children will Listen”, a lilting “I Feel Pretty” and an assured, stark and mournful “Losing My Mind”.
Shulman’s restraint pays such dividends that it almost seems a shame not to hear how she might handle “My Ship”, here an elegant instrumental solo for her brother-in-law, the trombonist Larry Zalkind, whose contribution to the album is equally fascinating. He leads an accomplished band of accompanists who provide Shulman with some intriguing counter harmonies to work against. The texture they bring to the gently swinging “September Song” and the washed-up, after-hours blues of “Ain’t got no Tears Left” is sublime. Serious without once sounding earnest or worthy, this is an album of standards for grownups.
Deborah Shulman / Larry Zalkind: Lost In The Stars: The Music Of Bernstein, Weill & Sondheim (2012)
The respective output from compositional icons Leonard Bernstein, Kurt Weill and, to a lesser extent, Stephen Sondheim has frequently been putty in jazz musicians’ and arrangers’ hands, proving that malleability is a sine qua non for long-range success in writing; genius-level composing skills, of course, also tend to help.
While the actual act of interpreting the work of these three men is hardly original at this point, the fashion by which vocalist Deborah Shulman, trombonist Larry Zalkind and their talented compatriots dig into their music is wholly unique. They look at each of these fourteen selections as individual opportunities to honor each composer’s original intention, while painting their own innovative brushstrokes atop these masterworks. While it would be easy to commit to a single strategy for a project like this, be it art song haughtiness, classical stringency or out-and-out nightclub jazz, Shulman and Zalkind take the high road, touching on everything but committing to no single avenue or approach. Zalkind’s tone, honed through his work as the principal trombonist with the Utah Symphony, and Shulman’s theatrical delivery hide no secrets about their respective stylistic comfort zones, but both artists prove to be just as malleable as the songs they interpret.
Four different arrangers were tapped for this project and each man brings something different to the table. Jeff Colella gives “Something’s Coming” a terrific odd-metered makeover and brings a light-handed approach to “I Feel Pretty,” while Terry Trotter moves “It’s Love” from easy-does-it swing to Brazilian shores. Brad Warnaar turns “My Ship” into a rich and rewarding piece for a Zalkind overdubbed trombone choir, and Ted Howe removes the happy-go-lucky-swing shackles that often keep “Mack The Knife” from reaching its full potential. Here, it’s reborn with chamber grace, riding atop a flowing 12/8 feel with graceful strings, accordion and, of course, trombone, helping to resurface its well-worn exterior.
Studio aces like guitarist Larry Koonse and drummer Joe La Barbera deserve some credit for helping to shape and mold these songs into their final state, but this is really the Shulman and Zalkind show. Shulman’s clear diction and artful interpretations of these songs, and Zalkind’s fine and focused trombone work make for a winning combination.
Deborah Shulman (vocals), Larry Zalkind (trombone)
Lost In The Stars: The Music of Bernstein, Weill & Sondheim
Along with the fascinating myriad of musical sounds on Lost in the Stars, add my sighs of relief and gasps of true surprise: there’s no “same old/same old” feeling on this CD by singer Deborah Shulman, trombonist Larry Zalkind and bandmates. Familiar becomes fresh in big and small ways and some daring ways. Those with open minds and ears will find some welcome experimentation in the shifts of usual tempo, tone, and emphases. While some arrangements and stylizations may at first seem to have been just jazzed up or dangerously lightened or loosened the grip of intensity, just wait. The underlying intent is not lost in Lost in the Stars. For example, the theatrical knockout punch might not be the in-your-face kind we’re used to on “The Ladies Who Lunch” and “Could I Leave You?,” the judgmental and keen observations still ring with veracity and vitriol in these two Stephen Sondheim bursts of bitterness. Both have arrangement and piano accompaniment by Terry Trotter, who has memorably released jazz trio versions of Sondheim’s scores over the years. (He has also collaborated with the singer in the past; this is her third album.) Despite the adventurousness, there’s a serious, grown-up, entrenched-with-theatricality agenda that commands my respect.
What also stands out here is the way the evocatively sultry-voiced Deborah Shulman and the masterful (but non-show-offy) musicians share the responsibilities and spotlight in telling the stories and setting moods. In many arrangements, there’s a lot of space between vocal lines where the musicians’ role is far more than accompanist or counterpoint commentator. A soloist acts as a vocal duet partner might, taking frequent “turns” prominently laying down a phrase rather than laying back in the background. It’s as if the parties here have created their own time zone, allowing the songs’ many thoughts and details to be presented at the pace they choose. Some changes are far more subtle; “Losing My Mind,” the other entry from Sondheim’s Follies, is taken just a bit slower than usual, and is the one track with just piano. The accompaniment figures are familiar, but taking it at more of a crawl makes the character’s pain more agonizing—as if “every little chore” and step and coffee cup sip is debilitatingly effortful. She’s too burdened, damaged and drained to get through it any more quickly. It works.
Sondheim is also represented by three other titles, a languorous, lush “I Feel Pretty” and a more confident-than-usual and less agitated “Something’s Coming,” two items from the score of West Side Story, his early landmark collaboration with Leonard Bernstein. However, in the packaging’s egregious error, lyricists for Bernstein and Kurt Weill’s melodies are not listed in the credits—even though the song list, with composers (last names only, throughout), is shown four times. Ironically, the lyrics here are given immense, concentrated attention and interpretation by Deborah, whose acting skills are formidable. Only on a very few occasions are liberties taken there, such as adding the adjective “sweet” to Betty Comden & Adolph Green/Leonard Bernstein’s declaration “It’s Love,” from Wonderful Town, at its extended fade-out. Cut from the same score, “Ain’t Got No Tears Left” is the CD’s least known song among rather well-known titles.
On the Weill side, there’s the classic that gives the album its title and “September Song” (both with Maxwell Anderson’s lamenting lyrics, and both more traditionally approached) and there’s a whole new approach to “Mack the Knife” (in English). Also, we get Weill’s melody of “My Ship”: no vocal here, it’s heard only as a multi-tracked trombone showpiece—hauntingly beautiful, reminding one of how the melody was used in the original context of the show, Lady in the Dark, as an elusive memory in the heroine’s dreams.
Trombonist Larry Zalkind is this lady singer’s brother-in-law, incidentally, and other musicians heard on the recording include his viola-playing wife Roberta and their cellist son Matthew on a few numbers. Arrangers are Trotter, Jeff Colella, Brad Warnaar, and the album’s producer, Ted Howe.
Jazz Review: Deborah Shulman and Larry Zalkind
Lost in the Stars: The Music of Bernstein, Weill & Sondheim
Blinded By Sound
Saturday, October 20, 2012
The worlds of musical theatre and jazz music collide often, with the former providing plenty of room for exaggerated exploration and the latter setting the scene for improvisation and some compositional guidelines. Those worlds collide yet again with the release of Lost in the Stars: The Music of Bernstein, Weill & Sondheim, the latest release from vocalist Deborah Shulman and trombonist Larry Zalkind.
The record is somewhat of a family affair, featuring Zalkind’s wife (and Shulman’s sister) Roberta (viola) and son Matthew (cello). Jeff Colella (piano), Terry Trotter (piano), Joe LaBarbera (drums), Larry Koonse (guitar), and Chris Colangelo (bass) are also part of the unit, with Frank Marocco (accordion) making his presence felt and Ted Howe producing and arranging some of the pieces.
The material is sophisticated and Shulman and Co. take some interesting directions, making use of the singer’s theatrical experience and her classical foundations to curve some tunes into nearly unrecognizable shapes. The group is nowhere near ashamed at careening headlong into some more demonstrative pathways, either.
Opening with a lively bass-line and LaBarbera’s measure, “Something’s Coming” is a good indication as to the fun to come. Shulman sings the Leonard Bernstein piece with reckless abandon, shifting tones and swerving through its loquacious lyrics. Zalkind’s trombone proves the ideal complement, spawning the other half of the tête-à-tête.
The famed Kurt Weill tune “Mack the Knife,” which first appeared in The Threepenny Opera in 1928, takes on new life here with a haunting rendering that shuns the poorly-read buoyant version popularized over the years. The astute choice, loaded with lovely strings and fine trombone accents, carries more of the shadowy Mackie Messer saga to bear.
Another Weill number, “September Song,” is delivered with class. The song, covered by a range of artists from Bryan Ferry to Elaine Page, is played well with plenty of open spaces and watchful trombone.
Stephen Sondheim’s “The Ladies Who Lunch,” originally found in Company, is carried derisively and finds its “drink” spiked by Koonse’s terse guitar. And “Ain’t Got No Tears Left,” a Leonard Bernstein song cut from On the Town, proves that this outfit can handle torchlight swagger.
Lost in the Stars is an album of finely-tuned music presented with flair by musicians of the highest order. Shulman’s tones are elegant but sometimes cutting, a perfect match for Zalkind’s straight-shooting trombone and the rest of the outfit’s poise.
Deborah Shulman/Larry Zalkind – Lost In The Stars: The Music Of BERNSTEIN, WEILL and SONDHEIM – Summit Records
October 17, 2012
This is a welcome reworking of three renowned stage composers.
The concept of updating Leonard Bernstein, Kurt Weill and Stephen Sondheim to a modern jazz context is not exactly groundbreaking. These are musical geniuses whose compositions have an innate eloquence that can translate in adaptation. There have been many interpretations of this music by diverse artists. But when you start with a source of inimitable material, it encourages innovation in the approach.
Larry Zalkind had a specific discipline in classical orchestral brass instrumentation. Together with vocalist Deborah Shulman, he was committed to interpreting these composers in an unusual jazz setting that started with trombone and voice. The result of this collaboration is Lost In The Stars. With an all-star ensemble, the songs are rendered with fresh atypical versions. The first cut to jump out is “Mack The Knife” (Three Penny Opera). Most versions rely on a sly rhythmic tempo, especially the hit single by Bobby Darin. However, this one takes a decidedly new framework. Shulman’s ethereal vocals are set against the near-classical romantic arrangement of Ted Howe with pizzicato and rich sentiment.
West Side Story is represented by two songs: “Something’s Coming” has an undercurrent of rhythmic dramatics, but the vocals are subdued and blend into the ensemble. Zalkind combines with the rhythm section and resurrects Bernstein’s musical prominence. The eager anticipation is balanced by a perceived melancholy. The use of guitar (Larry Koonse), bass (Chris Colangela) and drum (Joe LaBarbera ) co-mingle with the strings in a understated, slower latin jam. “I Feel Pretty” moves with a guileless charm that provides a singing counterpoint to the strings, guitar and drums. Three additional Bernstein classics are performed, including a ruminative, gentle bossa nova take on “Lucky To Be Me”. Again, the harmony parts between Shulman and Zalking are tightly correlated. “It’s Love” is crisply arranged bop with the quartet and singer.
Emphasizing the plaintive ambivalence of Sondheim’s “Children Will Listen”, the orchestration is relaxed, adding a backdrop to the story. Cello does not overwhelm the inherent feeling… it merely adds shades of melancholy. On another note, “It’s Love” feels like a straight ahead jazz combo with flourishes and wistfulness. Schulman’s vocal phrasing reflects the conversational tone of Sondheim. Zalkind adds sentiment and texture on trombone, and eschews customary extended solos. However, he shines on the tender instrumental, “My Ship”. The title track (from Cry The Beloved Country that was also covered by Bill Evans and others) adopts a traditional jazz structure, with trombone and guitar solos. The arrangements are not predictable.
Lost In The Stars does justice to the legacy of three important composers.
Deborah Shulman – Lost in the Stars
Peter La Barbera
“Lost In The Stars features two artists I’d not heard of prior to the release of this CD. Deborah Shulman and Larry Zalkind have collaborated with a unique and extremely talented group of musicians, not typical but varied instrumentations, for sets such as this. However, it really and truly works. To be very honest and frank, upon receiving this CD for review I thought to myself; “Oh yes, another singer on the jazz scene doing the usual and typical tunes and originals safely done in a neat package that we all could relate to.” This music on Lost In The Stars is very daring, challenging, inventive–highly inventive–and original in more ways than one. No, they do not push the envelope in musical experimentation with distortions, challenging tempos and the like. They give us something more. Take for example the way they approach Kurt Weill’s Mac the knife. The approach is surreal and almost dreamlike in what is a brilliant arrangement and score unlike any other version you may have heard in the past. Deborah’s voice is articulate and to the point; free of gimmicks and gymnastics. A word of warning: she will make you feel the lyrics with her sensibilities and sensitivities behind the words–oh yes she will. Take Sondheim’s not too often heard, children will listen where Deborah’s sense of timing and ever so slightly bending the meaning of the words like a fine craftsman so that the listener relates to his or her own experiences with regard to the lyric. This is a gift and she surely has it.
The instrumentation varies on this recording. Larry’s trombone is sensitive and intuitive to her voice and his accompaniment is a marriage of tonality, structure and sensibility. Larry does take one solo on the set soloing on Weill’s My Ship where he shows us his chops. His playing reflects melancholy when needed and energy to support Deborah’s interpretations. On the title track Lost In The Stars–the poignant evergreen by Kurt Weill I came away feeling a sense of isolation and loneliness in a vast universe interpreted by the nuances and inflections off Deborah’s use of lyrical exposition.
To sum up: this is classic music with original interpretation, a host of excellent musicians for support and a truly gifted vocal interpreter of the three giants whose songs she sings. To all who read this article please click the button above to purchase this music. I guarantee you will be moved, delighted and will always cherish this purchase.”
Deborah Shulman – Larry Zalkind /Lost in the Stars
“If you know what you’re doing, and you offer us a program of Bernstein, Weill and Sondheim, we won’t bitch about you not being Bernadette Peters, Patti LuPone or the Labeque Sisters. We might crab about ‘why didn’t you do…”?, but that’s what volume twos are for, aren’t they? With almost everybody on here being related and having chops that run generations deep, the crew finds the simpatico to deliver a first class cabaret/listening date take on a load of contemporary, musical theater tent poles. Dripping with a mature, sophisticated edge, this is cabaret/martini music that you would go somewhere to hear, not to just talk over as the glasses clink. A top shelf effort throughout, these indelible composers have a new set of champions to spread their word. Well done.”
Deborah Shulman / Larry Zalkind Lost In The Stars The Music of Bernstein, Weill, and Sondheim Summit 2012
“I don’t often venture into the works of Bernstein, Weil and Sondheim…perhaps that could be the reason this particular recording with imaginative arrangements and the sophisticated vocals of Deborah Shulman is so organically delightful. The art of the melody seems to be an on going casualty in music but the ability to take on a tune such as “Mack The Knife” and dial it down to a gorgeous if not melancholy ballad is a beautiful thing.
Not to be outdone we have Larry Zalkind giving a stellar virtuoso performance on trombone while the arrangements of Ted Howe shine in giving fresh legs to some slightly shop worn classics. To “reharm” such tunes as “Mack The Knife” and “I Feel Pretty” without disrespecting the original is a magnificent display of understanding the conceptualized approach to melody and how it plays a vital role in this particular project. A surprising twist for jazz aficionados is that while the more Broadway oriented tunes presented are also backed up with such gifted jazz talent as Larry Koonse on guitar, Joe LaBarbera on drums and off set with string players from the Utah Symphony in the form of Shulman’s sister Roberta Zalkind and nephew Matthew Zalkind playing viola and cello respectively.
The performance contained here much like the composers they represent cross genre barriers with ease and a deceptively subtle sophistication rarely heard from in the day of the digital download. A unique hybrid release broken down into jazz, musical theatre and the more modern classical. If your school is lucky enough to still have music appreciation then this release should be required listening! An exquisite experience to be savored!
Tracks: Something’s Coming; Lucky To Be Me; Mack The Knife; The Ladies Who Lunch; Children Will Listen; It’s Love; I Feel Pretty; Losing My Mind; September Song; Ain’t Got No Tears Left; My Ship; Leave You; Lost In The Stars; No One Is Alone/Not While I’m Around.”
Fine & Mellow – Three Voices and Deborah Shulman/Larry Zalkind
C. Michael Bailey
“Summit Records hits a quiet home run with the release of Deborah Shulman & Larry Zalkind’s Lost in the Stars: The Music of Bernstein, Weill & Sondheim.
Time out! This is not a jazz vocals disc. What it is is a most superior show-tunes recital, specifically focusing on Leonard Bernstein, Stephen Sondheim and Kurt Weill. At first blush, it would appear that this is an unfortunate mixing of musical theater generations, marring an otherwise well-conceived theme. But first blush would be too simple and wrong. Weill to Bernstein to Sondheim is logical evolution of the most sophisticated writing for the stage, something quite apart from Tin Pan Alley, something much more grown up.
Lost in the Stars: The Music of Bernstein, Weill & Sondheim continues the delicate art of song craft heard in Transitions, expanding it to the vocal realm. Vocalist Deborah Shulman and brother-in-law and trombonist Larry Zalkind give an almost classical reading of the Bernstein-Sondheim-Weill songbooks. The opening Bernstein pieces are perfectly punctuated by Zalkind’s classically-trained trombone. He provides a brass backbone to these carefree pieces as Shulman sings them with sensitivity and insight. The “Mack the Knife” here is no Bobby Darin, it is almost Late Romantic, like Richard Strauss having drinks with Weill and the two playing truth or dare at the piano. Most sophisticated are the Sondheim pieces. “Children Will Listen” is an adult lullaby warning for adults and “Losing My Mind” is the result of not heeding that warning. “Leave You” may be the greatest breakup song most people have never heard.
It must be noted that this disc is produced by Ted Howe, a West Coast musical mainstay and close friend of the principles. His considerable arranging talents were responsible for a novel “Mack” and his horn arrangements for Zalkind make “Lucky to be Me” and “It’s Love” sparkle. The title piece, Weill’s “Lost in the Stars” from Cry, The Beloved Country (1948), went on to become a favorite of pianist Bill Evans. It is no wonder as melodically rich as the song is, Evans would have had to have close empathy with it, lyrically and harmonically. Shulman lays waste to the emotional landscape of the song as Howe further deepens the piece with his careful direction of Zalkind. In the end, what this is, is songcraft of the highest order.”
Deborah Shulman and Larry Zalkind: Lost in the Stars (Summit)
“Songs by Leonard Bernstein, Stephen Sondheim and Kurt Weill all share elements seldom seen in current composition: good melody and even better lyrics. “Lost in the Stars” is a collection of 14 classics from these three composers from singer Deborah Shulman and trombonist Larry Zalkind. They do them in a jazz-like fashion, with small bits of improvisation from the instrumentalists. But the best part of album is the song presentation of Shulman, who has a fine mezzo voice and a great grasp of songs. Her versions of Sondheim’s “Children Will Listen” and “Not While I’m Around” have all the heart needed in those pieces. Her “The Ladies Who Lunch” has a sense of swing and cynicism. The most original version, though, is her slow version of “Mack the Knife” with a string trio and accordion. Besides fine accompaniment throughout, an overdubbed Zalkind also is a one-man section on “My Ship.” Simply put, this is fine music.
“Our musical book is open to the “S” page this week for a songwriter named Scott (Alan), a show about a shrink called Sessions, and then recording sessions with two singers. Mr. Simeone and Ms Shulman are vocalists with very different kinds of albums, and little in common besides eclectic song choices. But let’s start with a whole group of Broadway and Off-Broadway singers.”
Under The Radar
“I’m so glad the next item was picked up by a label after earlier very limited self-distribution. Recorded in 2004, it’s the debut of a classy vocalist I would not want to have missed.”
“Silky, subtle, sophisticated and shimmering, Deborah Shulman is pure pleasure to hear if you love a love song sung with an adult been-there, done-that sensibility. She can explore a sad lyric without overdoing the sorrow or skimping on the pure musicality. Two for the Road is a thoroughly classy affair with mostly downbeat material that focuses on self-analysis and self-awareness rather than self-pity. With several optimistic numbers, too, it’s all well sung with elegance and a depth of feeling. The liner notes are as unguarded and unpretentious as the singing: she states that the arc of the repertoire chosen reflects her reactions to a difficult divorce and her recovery, followed by a new love.
Some theatre and jazz fans will recognize the pianist/ arranger: Terry Trotter who made a series of albums that are instrumental jazz versions of Sondheim scores and one of The Fantasticks, among others. He’s joined by Tom Warrington on bass, Joe La Barbara on drums and guitarist Larry Koonse, who does some especially evocative playing. Terry Trotter’s work here is key to the album’s success: a sensitive accompanist and arranger, he and Deborah work together magnificently to tell the stories of the songs, often coming off as little character studies. They find surprising fragility and depth in what might be tossed off as just a bit of easy fun in “I Like You, You’re Nice,” (Blossom Dearie/ Linda Alpert). As a singer, Deborah is very much an actress who makes the most of the words but is sure-footed musically and has a basic prettiness to her tone that she rarely sacrifices for the sake of dramatic impact. The songs are strung out at length, never rushed, but the underlying melodic line and story are never lost in the leisure. They don’t feel long, even the six-minute “Where Do You Start” as the Johnny Mandel melody is treated with respect while the Marilyn and Alan Bergman lyric is sung haltingly, as if she is discovering the thoughts as they tumble out in painful step-by-step realization. It becomes a three-act play.
Deborah has an interesting background: she teaches voice, has performed in musical theatre (like Cats in California), has performed with groups, a duo (with Ann Jillian), and solo, produces shows and has written libretti for four children’s operas. And she’s just finished a second album that should be on its way soon: I can’t wait. She’s a gem. After Two for the Road, it’ll be great to have one more for the road.
And now it’s time for me to hit the road. “
“Shulman continues to melt listeners hearts on her latest release. With a carefully crafted yet delicate delivery, Shulman extracts every ounce out of a melody. Her accompaniment on this session is first rate. Her selection of songs is impeccable, and well suited to her style of singing.
Frank Loesser’s timeless classic, “Spring Will Be a Little Late This Year” is performed with passion and sensitivity. Pay close attention to Shulman’s phrasing and you will notice that she is working inside the melody, enjoying every moment along the way. Another note of interest is her ability to control the lyric without overextending. Trotter’s piano is a joy to the ear and the soul. He follows Shulman’s voice like a gentle breeze on a sunny day.
Another tune performed with grace and a candid delivery is “Something Cool.” Trotter continues to impress with his ever so gentle touch. Balance is the key to success here. Shulman and Trotter demonstrate how to achieve this without disturbing the natural ebb and flow.
One of the smoothest drummers in jazz is featured on “I Wish I Were In Love Again.” La Barbara’s brushwork is exquisite and timely. Shulman’s nicely rounded lyric and La Barbara’s response gel in a most satisfying manner. Koonse introduces a tender sounding guitar before the group swings for the rest of the piece.
After listening to Sinatra’s version for so many years, it was refreshing to hear a new take on a great tune. With a beautiful melody and a heart-on-your-sleeve lyric, Shulman delivers in spades. Some fine string work from Koonse.
There are so many enjoyable moments on this recording. For aspiring vocalists, “2 for the road” serves as a recording deserving repeated listening. Control, passion, fun and a desire to respect the melody and the lyric are just a few descriptive words describing this finely crafted outing.”
KVMR Radio 89.5 FM, Sacramento
“This GEM of a musical project has to be in your jazz collection. The commanding voice of Deborah Shulman had me coming back to the CD for more great music. Check out ‘You Don’t Know What Love Is’. WOW! Thank you Deborah. My favorite track is ‘The Meaning Of The Blues’.
Slow and Sultry is the game here, plus, romantic as the color red. Great work Deborah, great work!”
J. Otis Williams
KSDS Jazz 88.3 FM, San Diego
“I just reviewed your CD and it is a truly great listen. It will get a lot of air play on Jazz 88. You are SMOKING.”
KDHX 88.1 FM, St. Louis, Missouri
Carlos Fernandez Pacin
Jazz Café FM, Buenos Aires, Argentina
“A pretty voice and excellent musicians with her. Miss Deborah Shulman sings in the tradition of the real jazz ladies and in her voice her personal touch. She chose a good selection of jazz standards. For me, “four stars” for this first jazz work.”
“This singer has a unique sound combined with emotional depth. I received positive listener response when I played tracks from this disc. Hope she continues to record.”
Scazzola Giovanni Pietro
Radio Gold Popular Network, Italy
“How many times the word love occurs through the titles of this album. And how many different and rich sides of Deborah Shulman are represented on the photographs through the artwork of the CD. These are different aspects of the same soul: suspended on a repertoire so rich in vocal shadings, chances for Deborah’s own instrument to show her own gift and capability. They are enough with some simple, wise touches of guitar and piano, a discreet support from bass and drums to pass from Bossa to Swing, from sun to moon. Up to the whole incredible power of musical art.”
Erik Vande Voorde
Radio Beiaard, Belgium
“I am very glad to have received your CD. This is a great album.”
WIUM, Macomb, Illinois
“A well-done version of the title song, which I have always felt was underrated and under-recorded.”
Radio Maldwyn, United Kingdom
“Sweet ‘n sensitive sums this one up – great for late-night listening curled up on the sofa, but great too in a show which goes out between 6 p.m. and 8 p.m. The quartet shines through, the voice is terrific – what more can you ask.”
Primetime Radio, New Zealand
“If ever there was a class act, Deborah is it. In our café society here in New Zealand, this music goes down a treat, and it’s on regular rotation here.”
Alan W. Petrucelli
The Entertainment Report
“If you like warm, romantic jazz, if you’re a person who appreciates talent, taste and intelligence, then run, do not walk, to nab a copy of Deborah Shulman’s self-produced CD. Her voice is free yet disciplined, and her ability to get behind a lyric and wring out every ounce of truth can be heartbreaking. Almost like the cabaret artists of Manhattan glory days, Shulman has the innate talent to make the listener re-think a song, hear an old familiar song as if it were for the first time or, even better, hear a new song as if it was always a part of one’s life. The material traces the arc of pain and happiness (and everything that comes in between) in the race to and from love. Grab some wine, lower the lights and listen to great interpretations of great songs. How lucky we are – or have been – to know love . . . and how this special chanteuse helps us remember it all.”
“Deborah interprets songs such as ‘All or Nothing at All,’ ‘Spring Will Be a Little Late This Year’ and ‘Route 66′ and makes the words come alive. She draws you in with her heartfelt intensity and superb phrasing. Relating the songs to her life, dating again after a painful divorce, and finding love, she sings a Blossom Dearie song: ‘I Like You, You’re Nice.’ “
The Tolucan Times
“Accompanied by the hard-driving and energetic playing of drummer Ralph Humphrey, Larry Koonse on guitar, bass player Kenny Wild, and pianist/ music director and arranger Terry Trotter, Shulman consistently underplayed her material, emphasizing the tender and vulnerable aspects of the music. Shulman and her band possess excellent chemistry and timing together, further bringing the music alive. It’s obvious they all enjoy performing great music in an intimate setting.”
“Putting part of one’s life story into music and words does not always work. Rest assured, however, that Deborah has released an album full of emotion, strength and great music. Backed by a great quartet, this is an album for those who love sentimentality, jazz and great vocals.”
La Paz, Bolivia
“I was intrigued by the cover of the CD which is sometimes the first image of an artist before listening. The beginning song to the CD sets the perfect mood for the whole CD; it flows very gently into the next songs. A very crafted and experienced voice that is quite strong on the FM waves.”
2NVR, New South Wales, Australia
“Love it, play it all the time.”
“This Deborah Shulman record ‘2 for the road’ has been a pleasant surprise. The tracks that stand out for me are ‘You Don’t Know What Love Is’ and also ‘The Meaning Of The Blues’.”
Radio Putten, Netherlands
“Traditional jazzy sound, great voice, good choice of songs.”
“First album, but I hope not her last. Great. “
“Good, smooth record.”
Red Hot Blues Radio, Vilafant, Spain
“I have liked the CD very much. Shortly I will present it in my program. I have found it a very interesting CD and of much quality.”
“What a great sound you have. Keep up the good work and please keep me up to date with your progress.”
Noosa Community Radio 101.3 FM, Australia
“A beautifully produced and performed record. Great singing, great song selection, and a great band.”
PhilRadio International, Longwood, Florida
“Deborah Shulman did a terrific job on ‘2 for the road.’ Her sultry renditions of some old-time classics makes this CD a ‘must-have.’”
Jason (Xu) Marzetti
CJSR 88.5, Alberta, Canada
“Great CD! Deborah has an awesome voice! . . . This CD makes me want to go have a nice romantic night in the club. Bravo! Likes the most: Two For The Road.”
Cairns FM 89.1, Queensland, Australia
“Thank you so much for recording this album! I just love your beautiful voice, and the musicians on this album are stunning. You have your own fantastic style and it is very clear that you are truly following your bliss.”