Jazz vocalist Halie Loren’s latest album, Simply Love, is an eclectic mix of standards, original compositions, and an older pop hit or two, all stylishly imprinted with her personal touch. Her re-imaginings breathe new life into the classics and, with a little luck, her commanding performances of the new material promise to turn them into modern classics.
Music from the Great American Songbook can pose a problem for a singer. Familiarity can father contempt. A song like “My Funny Valentine” on a performer’s set list is just as likely to elicit groans from the jaded as it is applause. It is the great singer who can take a song like that and make it fresh, make us feel like it is something we haven’t heard over and over and over, ad infinitum. Halie Loren does the job. She makes “My Funny Valentine” come alive once again. Listen to her and it is clear why this a classic. She makes it her own, and she does the same for tunes like “For Sentimental Reasons,” “Dream a Little Dream of Me” (which she sings in French), “L.O.V.E.,” and even the unlikely “On the Sunny Side of the Street.”
Of the original material on the album, the most captivating is the bossa nova “Cuando Bailamos” which she wrote with Larry W. Clark. The title song written with Benita Hill is an eloquent ballad delivered with a simplicity that echoes its title.
Perhaps the highlights of the album though are the vibrant readings of the Carole King hit “I Feel the Earth Move” and The Turtle’s 1967 chart topper, “Happy Together.”
The singer works with a tight ensemble featuring fellow producer and arranger Matt Treder on piano and Rhodes, Mark Schneider on bass, and Brian West on drums and percussion. Add to them an assortment of strings on three tunes, “I’ve Got to See You Again,” “Le Premier Bonheur du Jour,” and the aforementioned original, “Cuando Bailamos,” which creates a richly-colored sound palate. Guitars, ukuleles, and a button accordion round out the supporting cast.