There must be something in Canada’s water. Diana Krall and Michael Bublé are just the cream of a crop of exceptional jazz singers from across the Atlantic who have led something of a global invasion over the last decade or so.
To be honest, I have always found something Krall’s style a bit laconic and chilly, while respecting her tremendous musicality and technique. And giving in to the temptation to categorise that I criticise so frequently elsewhere in the music industry, I must admit that I turned to Vancouver-born Tammy Weis expecting to hear something in a similar vein.
I was soon disabused. With the exception of a pensive reinvention of Lennon and McCartney’s “Help” – an unlikely candidate for a ballad, but it works wonderfully well here – Where I Need to Be (TW2010) finds Weis pouring her life-tales into a delicate patchwork of self-penned songs. Now living in London, she has produced a taking-stock album in which nostalgia and regret are evenly balanced by optimism and poignant musical snapshots.
Tammy Weis explains why she included “Help” on the album, and sings it
For several tracks, she joins forces with pianist/composer Tom Cawley, and their songs provide the album’s most intimate, emotional high points, book-ending it with two elegant, beautifully accompanied numbers, “I Kept Going” and “Heading Home”. There is texture along the way, most notably the Latin beat of “Everyone But Me”, with Weis’s lyrics a dry Martini short of self-pity, and the shimmering “I’ll Spend Forecer”. She swings too, throwing down the gauntlet with “Don’t Want to Fall in Love Again”, co-written with Terry Britten, an articulate account of teetering on the brink in the best traditions of the great American songbook.
“I love delving into my mind and imagination, which can be scary,” says Weis, suggesting that the writing might not be as easy as her fluid interpretations make it sound. “But the song at the end is my reward for expressing what’s inside.”
Weis’s voice is assured and true, just a hint of hardness cutting through when the lyric demands. She plays deftly with the melody without ever sacrificing clarity – every word is given its due. The band is impeccable – Al Cherry on guitar, Arnie Somogyi on bass and Seb de Krom on drums, with several guest players including steel guitarist B. J. Cole (particularly yearning on “Where Did the Time Go”, an end-of-the-affair ballad), and pianist Julian Joseph (“All Because of You”) whom Weis credits as her prime motivator for making an album of original songs.