Her musical training goes back to early childhood (age four, according to her mother) and her musicianship plays heavily in her vocal talent and technique. There is something heart-warming in the heart-breaking history of her life with Roger. In fact, lyrically speaking, Roger is the hidden hero of the narrative—the unseen electron that leaves such a discernible path in the cloud-chamber of Jamie’s heart. We never get to know him but we know his effect on her.
Helping her tell the story are pianist and Hammond B3 organist Joe Bagg, guitarist Larry Koonse, bassist Darek Oles, and drummer Jason Harnell. These guys can be light-hearted, and even whimsical, or they can be dark and brooding and they do it all with great respect and a depth of their own.
The album opens with Jamie’s own composition, Get Out of My Head. It has a unique wit and wisdom in its sitz im leben. It features Bagg on the B3 and presents Jamie in her Jazziest delivery. While Jamie arranges all of the pieces on the album, she composed two of them. Her arrangement of Cole Porter’s Easy to Love is splendid and her enunciation of certain phrases is especially cool. When she says We’d be so grand there is an almost over-statement of the GR sound in grand that made me take notice. She did that several times. She hits the R like Ella Fitzgerald did. And I dig it.
In Pat Metheny’s Question & Answer, Roger wrote the lyrics and changed the title to The Answers Are You and changed the feel of the song to one of tenderness. The result is beautiful.
Mountain Greenery (Rodgers and Hart) is a dizzy swing that recalls happier times and the band brings a smile with their touch. The lyrics speak of the headiness of a mountain trip where Roger proposed to Jamie.
It’s followed by Easy Living (Rainger and Robin) and speaks so sweetly of being in love with the one you are destined to be with. There’s nothing in life but you…but you is the last line of the song.
Then the mood begins to shift with You Don’t Know What Love Is. Larry Koonse turns in some cool work with his solo. Joe Bagg follows up on piano with an excellent turn of his own while Oles and Harnell play underneath with their own ear-catching rhythms.
O Cantador is sung in the original Portuguese—maybe the most beautiful language in the world. The lyricism of her vocals and that of Bagg’s piano is a thing of true beauty. Koonse’s nylon-stringed acoustic guitar sits so well in this frame.
Monk’s Reflections (lyrics by Jon Hendricks) is bound to please. It is a straight Jazz tune but with lyrics/vocals that are so well-suited to Jamie and her experiences, especially with Roger. In this eternal waltz, we all just keep dancing.
The album concludes with Jamie’s original Eyes Wide Open. Where do you start when your world starts to crumble? She asks from the start. And she concludes with I choose skies. I choose stars. I choose light. I choose Love.
Make no mistake. Jamie Shew sings of her love and her loss but she never turns maudlin in the midst of the melancholy. She brings hope to the heart-broken. The album was born in tragedy but ends with self-reflection and self-revelation. And that is never a bad thing.
~Travis Rogers, Jr. is The Jazz Owl