There are those singers who do pop. There are those singers who do jazz. There are those singers who have the kind of belt that will get them the lead in a Broadway musical. If This Time, the debut jazz album from songstress Lindsay Mendez and pianist Marco Paguia is any indication, Ms. Mendez is one singer who can do it all.
Mendez and Paguia met back in 2010 while working on Broadway and began discussing the possibility of a collaboration. An offer of a gig at Joe’s Pub in New York provided them with the opportunity, and with a week to prepare, they went to work on a show.
The duo began traditionally. As Paguia puts it: “We worked our way through standards, swinging and going for a more straight-ahead thing.” “Ella, Sarah, Dinah Washington, Nina Simone,” Mendez adds, “…these were the singers that I always wanted to emulate.” They had been listening to Ella Fitzgerald and Oscar Peterson’s album, Ella and Oscar, Paguia continues, “and thought this to be a good inspiration and jumping off point for us.” The more they worked on their set, the more they began to integrate some current pop tunes in with the more traditional standards. What they were looking for was something that would have a broader appeal to a contemporary audience that would allow them to “reimagine songs in a unique way.”
Fast-forward to 2013 and This Time. You’ve got the traditional combination of vocalist and accompanying trio: Paguia on piano, Pete Donovan on bass and Tommy Crane on drums, but instead of Mendez singing the tunes of Cole Porter, she’s singing Regina Spektor; instead of Gershwin, it’s Feist. It’s jazz, but it’s jazz that looks to build on where a younger audience’s head is, and it works. In the end, good music played by talented musicians makes for good jazz, and This Time is as good as it gets.
Beginning with standout versions of John Legend’s “Ordinary People” and Spektor’s “Us,” the pair offers a baker’s dozen of delights. Mendez works all the kinks out swinging through Fiona Apple’s “Fast as You Can.” Her take on “Lilac Wine” rivals Jeff Buckley and she hits Joni Mitchell’s “A Case of You” out of the proverbial park.
An accomplished actress, Mendez is slated to take over the lead in Wicked sometime this summer, as she has the ability to create a character to interpret the lyric. The voice that sings Alicia Keys’ “No One” is quite distinct from the voice that sings Martin Sexton’s “Freedom of the Road.”
Lindsay Mendez and Marco Paguia have put together a captivating debut album. Let’s hope that it is the first of many to come.
Photo One: Album Cover; Photo two credit: top40charts.com