JazzTimes Magazine November 2015
Her assets are considerable: beautiful clarity of tone, immaculate phrasing and an excellent sense of time. She makes the most of what she’s got, surrounding herself with solid session mates including pianist Randy Ingram, bassist Peter Brendler, drummer Jeff Davis and trumpeter Nicholas Payton.
And in Gary William Friedman, she’s found an arranger who knows how to ideally frame her with unfussy, liquid charts. Shaping lyrics to Friedman’s music, she’s also a deft lyricist.
Perhaps most important, she appreciates how to make the familiar freshly engaging. The world hardly needs an umpteenth rendering of “Tea for Two.” But Holland, with a bit of lyrical assistance from Joe Mooney, winningly transforms the tired chestnut into a smartly cosmopolitan midtempo swinger. Her dreamy, almost ethereal treatment of “Out of This World” takes the Arlen-Mercer classic a step beyond most readings, lending its theme of love fulfilled a hint of mutability. And she varies her playlists with some unexpected additions, including “Another Grey Morning,” James Taylor’s powerful reflection on his battle with depression, and its polar opposite, the cleverly romantic Sigmund Romberg-Dorothy Fields rarity “April Snow.”
As for the originals, “Tomorrow’s Looking Brighter Today” is a Frishberg-esque charmer, while the title track suggests the quiet grandeur of Michel Legrand. Best, though, is the Payton-propelled “Never,” an ode to soulmate satisfaction that, in its deceptive simplicity, is tremendously moving.
— Christopher Loudon
DownBeat Magazine October 2015
Vocalist Stevie Holland has a background in musical theater. While this might be frowned upon by jazz purists, it definitely helps her inhabit her songs. Moreover, her warm voice is distinctly sophisticated, and her range allows her to negotiate her most daring inflections.
With help from arranger Gary William Friedman, she brings freshness to well-trodden material, such as Hoagy Carmichael’s “Skylark” or Tea For Two”, injected here with a welcome dose of humor. Other highlights include Friedman’s own “Tomorrow’s Looking Brighter Today,” for which Holland penned the lyrics. A dreamy rendition of Stephen Sondheim’s “Not While I’m Around” is another standout…
With seven albums to her name, Holland is a distinctive voice in a crowded field.
— Alain Druout
All About Jazz
Vocalist Stevie Holland has blazed quite a path for herself. She is fifteen years into a career that has produced seven recordings, the most recent being the present impressionistic Life Goes On. While always refined, Holland takes her refinement to a gilded level that is almost a vapor, an essence. She never overuses her perfectly balanced soprano voice, erring always on the side of sophistication and pure simplicity. Holland approaches ten Gary William Friedman-arranged standards and originals like Matisse beginning his Jazz series.
Holland (and Friedman) transform “Skylark” from a sleepy ballad into a jaunty strut that serves Nicholas Payton ‘s tart open bell just fine. It is with no small amount of threat that a warhorse like “Skylark” be given such a facelift. Cut-out bins are crammed with such failed attempts. But Holland pulls it off. Two pieces feature a string quartet: Arlen/Mercer’s “Out of this World” and the Hammond/David “99 Miles From LA.” The effect is not a “with strings” affair, rather the presence of the strings adds a layer to the impressionism Holland already instills into the classic. James Taylor’s “Another Grey Morning” remains very much his creation (like any Paul Simon song, one can hear them from a mile away).
It is “Tea for Two” that contains and displays all of Holland’s art. Briskly sardonic, Holland dispatches this standard in such an original manner that her performance joins Anita O’Day‘s 1958 Newport performance as the modern musical standard. Grace and sophistication rise from this recording like the bouquet of fine wine.
— C. Michael Bailey
Many singers (or those who represent them), make comparisons in their publicity to giants in the business. “Like Ella Fitzgerald,” one might say, “(NAME) is a vocalist who…” Or, “In a style reminiscent of Peggy Lee, (NAME) has a unique sense of…” You get the idea. So when I get a comparison in my head that’s sort of off that well worn track, I get a little nervous. Not that I’m necessarily trying to win anyone’s approval; rather, the fear is that I’ll be so out of left field that it will demean the whole piece.
Stevie Holland reminds me of Mel Tormé. Tormé had a style that sounded like anyone could do what he did. Anyone with lots of practice, spot-on ability to hit the notes, an impeccable, nobody-can-touch-me sense of swing, and the confidence that says yeah…anyone can do this. Go ahead and try.
So, so effortless, she makes it sound. The great ones do. Never so much as in this set, that opens with that Arlen/Mercer classic, “Skylark,” and glides through pieces both old classic (“Tea For Two”), new classic (James Taylor’s “Another Gray Morning”), and fresh – Ms. Holland’s own “Tomorrow’s Looking Brighter Today,” with husband and composer Gary William Friedman. Grammy award winner Todd Barkan (This year’s “Best Latin Jazz Album”) produces. The backing band includes Randy Ingram, piano; Peter Brendler, bass; and Jeff Davis on drums. Trumpeter Nicholas Payton guests on three tracks, and a string quartet appears on two. It may sound easy, but don’t try this at home, kids.
This set is very highly recommended.
(Tracks in bold will be added to the playlist at 62ndStreet.com.)
— Doug Boynton
For her fifth CD, Life Goes On, elegant vocalist Stevie Holland transcends what might have been a maudlin cocktail-hour affair by being in total service to each song. No idiosyncratic dips and swirls. No garish ‘American Idol’ vibrato or making one-sylable words into eight. Holland is refreshingly natural plus she maintains a dynamic ability to dredge every last ounce of warmth and meaning from James Taylor’s “Another Grey Morning,” Harold Arlen and Johnny Mercer’s “Out Of This World,” Albert Hammond and Hal David’s “99 Miles From L.A.,” Stephen Sondheim’s “Not While I’m Around and even “Tea For Two” and “Skylark” (which features a mid-song swing-break). It’s almost as if she’s dusting off the cobwebs of time.
She also co-writes her own sophisticated originals with producer/husband, Gary William Friedman. Backed sympathetically by piano/bass/drums augmented by star trumpeter, Nicholas Payton, on three tracks and a string quartet on two, the 10 songs fly by on gossamer wings. It’s a thoroughly delightful 40 minutes.
Holland’s one-woman 2013 off-Broadway show Love Linda: The Life Of Mrs. Cole Porter had her singing those merry old Cole songs as if they were new, adding life to them in the process. And that-exactly-is her talent: everything old is new again in the hands of this native New Yorker. Be it pop or jazz, chanteuse-extraordinaire Stevie Holland has upped the cabaret culture ante.
— Mike Greenblatt
L.A. Jazz Scene
Stevie Holland is an actress and a cabaret performer who is also an excellent jazz singer. She has a warm voice, a solid sense of swing, and is a subtle improviser. Life Goes On finds her joined by pianist Randy Ingram, bassist Peter Brendler, drummer Jeff Davis, guest trumpeter Nicholas Payton and, on two songs, a string quartet. The arrangements are provided by her husband Gary William Friedman who co-wrote “Never” and “”Tomorrow’s Looking Brighter Today” with his wife.
The set starts out strong with two of the first three selections being among the highpoints. Ms. Holland engages in close interaction with Payton during a memorable version of “Skylark” and she partly utilizes Joe Mooney’s eccentric and boppish lyrics on “Tea For Two.” Much of the rest of the set emphasizes ballads with the singer utilizing her dramatic skills along with her experiences in cabaret. “Tomorrow’s Looking Brighter Today” swings well and her rendition of Sondheim’s “Not While I’m Around” is heartfelt.
— Scott Yanow
Cabaret Scenes Magazine
Returning to recording after a professional hiatus, jazzy stylist Stevie Holland sings gems from the Great American Songbook on her newly released eclectic album, Life Goes On. The cuts include personal favorites from her repertoire as well as more contemporary and original songs. The result is an album that goes from deeply melancholic (the title cut) and uplifting (“99 Miles from L.A.”). It doesn’t get better than opening with the beloved “Skylark,” given a breezy swing treatment here, with her supple alto vocals setting the mood for what’s to come. With some classy arrangements by her long-time personal and professional partner Gary William Friedman, and a terrific band of professionals, this album hits the right chords and is worthy of attention.
Aside from “Skylark,” Holland has some truly special moments that include a sensitive reading of “April Snow,” starting with a terrific piano accompaniment (by the great Randy Ingram), and segueing into a well-paced rhythmic trio in the background. Other highlights are a swinging, well-sung “Tea for Two” and a beautiful “Out of This World” with finely honed phrasing that makes the song more compelling. Holland has a way with ballads that invites listeners to close their eyes and enjoy. That quality can’t be bought.
There is no thunder and lightning on this CD. And that’s the point. Unnecessary vocal gymnastics or overwrought nuances with over-produced arrangements aren’t called for. In that regard, Stevie Holland gets high marks for an album that is classy, sassy…and just right.
— John Hoglund
CD LINER NOTES
“Virtually every important jazz singer to emerge in the past two decades has had to find a way to expand the familiar repertoire of golden-age standards. Stevie covers the waterfront. Effortless swing, and a radiant wit…a self-possessed tour de force.”
— Gary Giddins
Her sound is as pure and potent as aqua vitae, as warm and richly mature as vieille reserve cognac. There is also an enticing stillness about Stevie Holland that can alternately suggest a fountain crafted of the smoothest, creamiest Carrera marble or a roaring fire, its flames reflected in deep polished oak. (If there’s any criticism to be laid, it’s that those flames occasionally burn a degree or two hotter than necessary.) On this, her fourth album, Holland is joined by superior players as pianist Martin Bejerano, bassist Edward Perez, drummer Willie Jones III, saxophonist Ole Mathisen and guitarist Paul Bollenback, rock solid as a unit but given ample opportunity to individually stir her tranquility. Holland’s interesting choice of covers extends from the beatific quietude of Leonard Bernstein’s “Make Our Garden Grow” (from Candide) and wise, world-weary sophistication of “Here’s To Your Illusions” to the spicy shimmer of the Astaire-Rogers chestnut “Carioca” and the ebb-and-flow desire of Carly Simon’s “Riverboat Gambler.” Equally impressive are two Holland originals, both written with her husband, arranger/composer Gary William Friedman. The title track (superbly embellished by Mathisen’s horn) is a contemplative affair built around a disintegrating relationship. Conversely, “The Music In Me That Plays” (much enriched by Bollenback) is a shimmering samba that exalts bracing new love.
— Christopher Loudon
All Music Guide
* AMG ALBUM PICK *
Vocalist Stevie Holland is gifted with a rich, expressive alto, clear diction and an ability to bring out something fresh in familiar songs. Buoyed by a strong rhythm section consisting of pianist Martin Bejerano, bassist Edward Perez and drummer Willie Jones III, Holland catches the nuances of the sensual “Carioca” without falling into a tired routine as do many lounge singers, often backed solely by Perez. She restores the oft-omitted verse to Rodgers & Hart’s “Where or When” then savors its romantic lyrics in an updated treatment of this decades-old standard. Tenor saxophonist Ole Mathisen is added for her lush, deliberate treatment of “Lazy Afternoon,” though Holland’s powerful duet with Bejerano of “How Deep is the Ocean” is easily the high point of her CD. Guitarist Paul Bollenback joins the rhythm section for her swinging interpretation of Ferde Grofe’s “Daybreak” (with the guitarist opening his solo with a bit of Grofe’s well-known “On the Trail”). She also collaborates with composer Gary William Friedman on two strong originals. Her med-tempo bossa nova “The Music in Me That Plays” is an upbeat affair, with Bollenback playing acoustic guitar. Mathisen returns for Holland’s melancholy ballad “Before Love Has Gone,” with the singer delivering her longing lyrics in a heartfelt manner. Carly Simon’s “Riverboat Gambler” seems an unlikely choice for a jazz vocalist, but Holland takes on the challenge and makes it work. Highly recommended.
— Ken Dryden
Sounds Of Timeless Jazz
Vocalist Stevie Holland does a tremendous job with a well-selected repertoire of songs from the theatre, Tin Pan Alley and rare movies. BEFORE LOVE HAS GONE encompasses the beauty of Holland’s voice when accompanied by such great artists as Martin Bejerano on piano, Edward Perez on bass, Willie Jones III on drums, Ole Mathisen on saxophone and Paul Bollenback on guitar. Holland is blessed with great pitch, amazing articulation and clarity. Along with her ability to phrase well and sustain notes that convey the whole story, such jazz standards as “Where Or When”and rarely heard gems like “Lazy Afternoon” get a brand new life. Accompanied by piano only, “How Deep Is The Ocean?”, is absolutely beautiful as Holland returns it to its most personal level. This chamber ballad was one of Irving Berlin’s most eloquent meditations. However, whether the songs are those of Rogers and Hart or Irving Berlin’s or her own beautiful originals, this recording captures the essence of jazz singing at its best. Low-keyed and laid back, this set is cooler than cool and can be enjoyed by the fireplace, at the club, at the beach or just about anywhere you want to hear some great laid back jazz. Buy BEFORE LOVE HAS GONE now.
— Paula Edelstein
Cabaret Scenes Magazine
In the tradition of jazz vocalists like Susannah McCorkle and Peggy Lee, jazz stylist Stevie Holland can smolder with the best of them. On her newest entry, Before Love Has Gone, she is breezy, smoother and her phrasing more intelligent than ever. Starting with a refreshing, rhythmic “Carioca,” by Vincent Youmans with words by Gus Kahn and Edward Eliscu, the cut recalls an early Astrid Gilberto with its silky vocals and driving bossa arrangement that sizzle. The seductive album, filled with rarities, standards and originals by co-producer Gary William Friedman, is an all-encompassing musical journey of romance that recalls the golden age of American song fused with today’s innovative musings on love. Holland pulls it all off with intelligent style worthy of serious attention in the jazz world. And the lady can really sing! She’s fully committed to the words and music. Strong contemporary highlights include the moody, yet cool title cut by Friedman and Carly Simon’s “Riverboat Gambler.” Both are sophisticated with an edge of chic optimism. Standards include sharp examples of how Holland can wrap her voice around a lyric and infuse the song with genuine emotion, as on Berlin’s languorous “How Deep Is the Ocean?” and on the Rodgers and Hart evergreen, “Where or When.” If there was any doubt, this album has an appeal that should cement Holland’s standing as a first-rate jazz stylist. The brilliant arrangements are provided by the smooth trio with Martin Bejerano on piano, Edward Perez on bass and Willie Jones lll on drums with guests sax man Ole Mathisen and guitarist Paul Bollenbeck.
— John Hoglund
Listen Up!/Weekly Playlist
Carrying her torch with a light, sure hand, Holland makes the Sammy Fain/Yip Harburg tune both seductive and achingly pure.
— Elysa Gardner
Lovers of jazz vocals have got quite a treat in store. Make that two treats: L0VERLY and BEFORE LOVE HAS GONE. These new CDs, sung respectively by Cassandra Wilson and Stevie Holland, are noteworthy in every respect. Both singers are major artists who can’t be faulted for their interpretations of jazz standards and (in Holland’s case) original songs, and each is backed up by musicians of the highest caliber, not to speak of faultless arrangements and production values.
Wilson’s warm, husky voice (and the teasing, sexy quality that imbues it) dominates LOVERLY, which focuses mostly on slow, classic ballads like Lover Come Back to Me and Gone With the Wind, but also manages to swing, fast and hot, on Caravan and Dust My Broom, the Robert Johnson classic. Among the musicians backing Wilson are percussionist Lekan Babalola and pianist Jason Moran.
Stevie Holland also concentrates on ballads (How Deep Is the Ocean, Lazy Afternoon), which she delivers with scrupulous attention to the lyrics, making them sound fresh and appealing. The perfect pitch of her voice and its bell-like clarity are the obvious reasons why many critics consider her the finest young vocalist on the jazz scene today. That she also writes quality songs (with her husband/arranger, Gary William Friedman)–such as Before Love Has Gone and The Music In Me That Plays–are further reasons why she is verging on the brink of stardom.
— Willard Manus
Oh, how I love this music! It just doesn’t get any better than this. Stevie Holland’s BEFORE LOVE HAS GONE is The Great American Songbook… enhanced. Enhanced by the extraordinary voice and stylings of my new favorite chanteuse. Enhanced by the inclusion of some intriguing rarities such as the Richard Wilbur/Leonard Bernstein gem “Make Our Garden Grow” from the mid-century musical “Candide” and “Daybreak,” the Harold Adamson/Ferde Grofe composition from the 1942 flick “Thousands Cheer”. Enhanced by the inclusion of two entrancing originals, “The Music In Me That Plays” and the title track, from the pens of Stevie and her producer/arranger/husband Gary William Friedman. Enhanced by the ever appropriate, never overpowering jazz quintet of piano, bass, drums, guitar, and saxophone that accompanies her stunning interpretations and allows her amazing voice to shine through. To say I’m impressed with this album would be a gross understatement. This is a superb collection of songs, lovingly selected and written, adroitly interpreted with ultimate class and intuition. In her words, “Memories flow through each of these songs of love, up to and including the new ones Gary and I write together…” This native New Yorker has outdone herself on her 5th solo release. Truly a breathtaking listening experience. I hear Stevie Holland and I get goose bumps. Need I say more?
— Scott O’Brien
All About Jazz
LA/San Francisco-Bay Area/Chicago Print Edition
Before Love Has Gone shows that Holland’s brilliantly captivating More Than Words Can Say was no fluke. Holland’s got this cozy snuggle by the fireplace kind of voice, yet with a playful sense of swing, and inventiveness that is simply irresistible. Supported by an ultra hip rhythm section of Martin Bejerano (piano), Edward Perez (bass), Willie Jones III (drums), Holland caresses with silky and soft hands tunes like “Where Or When” and “How Deep Is The Ocean” with tenderness. Yet, she is also to tinkle with upbeat tunes like “Carioca” and “Daybreak”, and sound relaxed, yet assured on these snappy tunes. Guitarist Paul Bollenback has some great work on the whole album as well, particularly on “Daybreak”, and tenor saxophonist Ole Mathisen is wonderfully moody on the sepia toned “Lazy Afternoon”. I could go on and on, but instead, I will abbreviate in conclusion by emphasizing that I could listen to this lady all day.
— George Harris
Country music shows pride in the angelic choir-like resonance of Alison Krauss, but jazz acquired the dulcet airwaves of Stevie Holland, whose fourth CD, Before Love Has Gone, showcases a resemblance to the Broadway production of South Pacific and the whispery vocal glides and light shimmers of Shirley Bassey in Holland’s singing. Holland’s album is a montage of rarely recorded classics and standards with slips here and there of original tunes penned by herself and her collaborator, award winning composer Gary William Friedman. Produced by Friedman, Todd Barkan and Tim Peierls,Before Love Has Gone is a memoir of yesteryear with pages containing classic jazz motifs engulfed in smooth jazz protocol and a torch-lit ambience. It is a long forgotten era, but always pleasurable to visit. A few women like Stevie Holland have tackled the club jazz aura of torchlight music including Dena DeRose, Sheila Cooper and Rosie Carlino, to cite a few. The flowy lines of Holland’s music have the touch of a gentle caress and her delivery projects a lofty elegance relatable to soul singers like Carly Simon and Billy Holiday in songs like “Lazy Afternoon” and “Where Or When”. The Spanish flare of “The Music In Me That Plays”, the Cuban zest of “Carioca”,and the zippy swing jazz rhythmic bumps of “Daybreak” slightly bridge off from the beaten path by infusing the album with numbers that incite people to move onto the dancefloor, as opposed to sitting mesmerized listening to the captivating narrations of Holland like in the misty oration of “Make Our Garden Grow”. The piano opus for “How Deep Is The Ocean” creates a lovely entranceway for Holland’s voice to come through its silky veil. Holland and her crew use several effects like this one to stir audiences emotions as Holland’s vocal rays soar while keeping a melodic range and dips into lower registers on the downcasts. Her glistening intonations on “Riverboat Gambler” make a vivid impression, and the punctuations in her musings through “Here’s To Your Illusions” are stretched out to gorgeous lengths while radiating a woman’s love for a man who cut her to the bone. Every woman who has needed to sing the blues over a cad wishes she could handle it with the class and elegance of Stevie Holland. Before Love Has Gone is a keepsake chest that you can turn to when reminiscing over love’s bliss like in “Make Our Garden Grow”, originally written by Richard Wilbur and Leonard Bernstein, or love’s thorny side like in “Here’s To Your Illusions”, a song penned by Sammy Fain and E.Y. Harburg. Holland and Friedman’s collaborations can be heard on “The Music In Me That Plays” and the title track, “Before Love Has Gone”. Holland handles her melodic phrasing with maturity, total command and aplomb, and the emotional vulnerability of a woman who is completely honest with herself and comfortable in her skin. Before Love Has Gone is the follow up to Holland’s 2006 release, More Than Words Can Say, proving that just when people thought that she could not do any better than her last album, she breaks her own record and reaches a new high. Stevie Holland shares this quality with country singer Alison Krauss, and it’s quite nice to see women challenging themselves instead of each other.
— Susan Frances
Jazz Improv Magazine
Before Love Has Gone is the latest release for New York-based vocalist Stevie Holland. Her husband, Gary William Friedman, arranged the music for this set. Friedman is also the composer for “The Music In Me That Plays”, and “Before Love Has Gone”, two of the ten songs in the set of mostly Great American Standards by such composers as Irving Berlin, Richard Rodgers and others. Stevie Holland and her superb accompanists offer a delightful set of styles and tempos in this 40 minute collection, and making it all look and sound easy. Holland opens the set with a relaxed medium tempo version of Vincent Youman’s “Carioca”. The piece begins with just bassist Edward Perez, in a percussive mode, backing Holland. The two are locked in and set the stage for the tasteful entry of pianist Martin Bejerano. The piece grows and opens up for some exchanges with drummer Willie Jones III, who tastefully punctuates the festivities with full-bodied work on the tom-toms and cymbals — just right, not overplayed, not too loud. “Carioca” is a unique and magnetic performance — instantly capturing our attention and setting the stage for a wonderfully tasteful set. The interplay between Holland and her accompanists is abundantly clear from the start. “Before Love Has Gone” is a tender bossa-like ballad. The rhythm section floats loosely, allowing for Holland’s interpretation of her own moving and expressive lyrics about protecting and nurturing love, ideally complementing her husband’s, Friedman’s musical composition. Ole Mathisen tosses in a rich-sounding, if brief, tenor sax solo. Pianist Bejerano and Holland are alone for the opening of “Where Or When”. It’s relaxed, and open. He uses space effectively and she warms the moment with her big sound. In the background, drummer Jones offers some light brush work on snare, just enough to move the music, while maintaining the subtlety of this unique performance of Richard Rodgers’ “Where or When”. The musical connections, the rhythmic interaction, and the subtle drive is evidenced here as a window into the entire album. Holland delivers a soft and sensitive rendition of the classic “Lazy Afternoon”. “The Music In Me That Plays” is a Bossa Nova by Friedman. Continuing the flavor of the album, this is about as fast as the tempo gets on the recording — and that’s just fine. The intensity of the music is in the subtlety of the master performers and Holland’s flowing renditions, and sensitive connection to the compositions and magnificent integration with the in-the-moment creations and movements of the rhythm section and accompanists. “Daybreak”, composed by Ferde Grofe (well known for his “On The Trail”) is the one piece on the recording that is underscored with a straight-ahead swing groove. It’s a medium tempo piece that features an expectedly tasteful solo by guitarist Paul Bollenback, following Holland’s most swinging telling of the story. There are many highlights on this album. Among the most obvious highlights is the consistently stellar level of musicianship. The songs are timeless stories of love and hope and other universal themes into which we can find ourselves enveloped. The gentle approach underscored by powerful themes and articulate messengers offers an oasis from the hustle and bustle we all experience. Stevie Holland delivers a consistently high level performance throughout the album. Backed by a group of wonderfully sensitive accompanists and an appealing variety of musical material, this album is tops from beginning to end.
— Clive Griffin
All About Jazz
Los Angeles/San Francisco-Bay Area/Chicago Print Edition
Stevie Holland sure can sing! Blessed with a full and attractive voice, Holland throws her all into each song and puts out an engaging and irresistible display of musical emotions on the charming More Than Words Can Say. Backed by a diplomatic mixture of jazz musicians and strings, Holland sings, prowls and soars through Gary William Friedman’s cleverly arranged charts on the likes of “Only You” and “Day By Day”. This is not a rehashing of oldies, but a breathing of new life into dry bones that rekindle the melodies and lyrics. Jerome Kern’s “Yesterdays” lays down a hard driving beat that Holland just tears through with her crystalline voice, which impressively has the precision of a diamond cutter. She delivers quite well on her own compositions as well. The lonely “Evening Song”, with dreamy piano and sax work by Martin Bejerano and Ole Mathisen respectively, is mature and thought provoking. Likewise, Holland’s voice is poignant on the moody and string-laden “Lovingly”. Throughout More Than Words Can Say, well known songs are respectfully redressed, and intertwined originals feel right in place. Here’s a lady who is singing with feeling. I just would like to know when’s she coming to town?
— George Harris
To the next level and beyond this siren of swing has taken her newest gift to the jazz world? After a success debut, some artists bequeath fans with mediocrity staying in a comfort zone however this vocalist never visits the same real estate twice as she accelerates her expertise to a new dimension in this uplifting 2006 release. Stevie Holland is genuine talent… More Than Words Can Say is a wonderful piece of entertainment which offers standards and originals all with such range and pure sentiment delivered in a distinctive style.
The presence of her tones is one thing but the disc tenders an impressive band resonance as well. Her stage consists of fine artists whom compliment her range and their diverse nature allow for the arrangements and melodies to marry with ease. A tender moment in jazz vocalization! Case in point, swelter in the mood of Gary Friedman’s “Lovingly” as it’s translated by Holland for it electrifies the nerves and stimulates the memories…
Released in May of this year by 150 Music More Than Words Can Say has all the makings of a highly talked about effort. Her confidence with swing just jumps out at you through this disk spin. This alone exhibits a true sense of focused direction on route to a sultry cool!
Holland simply is polished and fine tuned ready for numerous spins with every effort undertaken.
The title cut “More Than Words Can Say” lyrically divine by the creative pen of Ms Holland with Friedman’s sculpted notes aligns this to be a hot yet sensitive relationship for the jazz listener. The words are simple, I will grant you but tied to the emotion and impact musically, this cut drives those loves of the past memories into overdrive!
Ms. Holland has arrived once more never to look back on the tails of two very nice efforts, this 2006 piece is just what the jazz world expects and as is delivered…accolades to its existence!
— Karl Stober
After Dark/Gay Chicago Magazine.com
Traversing that fine line between jazz and cabaret and allowing each genre to influence the other for optimal effect, Stevie Holland again teams with arranger/producer Gary William Friedman for their fourth set, and each delivers the goods.
Friedman’s immensely inventive and surprising arrangements and orchestrations take even the most familiar song, such as If Ever I Would Leave You, and creates a wholly new environment in which Holland can unleash her alluring voice. The dramatic opening of Only You catches the listener right off, and that attention will be well-rewarded during the next 45 minutes as Holland and her marvelous mix of studio musicians take a swinging stroll through Kenny Loggins’ This Is It and strut their way through a toe-tapping take on the Frank Loesser-Jimmy McHugh “Murder”, He says.
Holland nestles into a languid read of the classic Yesterdays and infuses Day By Day with a warm romanticism, and she moves from a haunting beginning to a more assertive By Myself amid Friedman’s slowly building arrangement.
Of the four originals that debut here, Holland (words) and Friedman’s (music) Evening Song and the title track are standouts, with the story of reencountering a former love in Evening Song and More Than Words Can Say’s sweet simplicity of the statement of love given a beautiful performance.
— Jeff Rossen
all about jazz
Words are not sufficient to describe the bright spirit that comes from Stevie Holland’s latest release. You’ve got to hear her to understand the many qualities that make up this winning performance. She combines a highly accurate vocal presentation with deeply felt expression and comes up with the best of both worlds. While communication is her forte, Holland also ensures that we’re treated to a musical performance of the highest caliber.
The album begins with “Only You,” which features saxophonist Ole Mathisen on soprano and alto. Holland’s soulful love ballad opens the session with glad feelings all around. Like a faithful celebration in church on a Sunday morning, her interpretation affects the audience deeply. “Yesterdays” provides a leisurely samba romp that places Holland and her piano trio in a hardy groove. Strings give “Lovingly” a romantic texture. Most of the program, taking its cue from the title track, emphasizes the art of romance.
Jimmy McHugh’s “’Murder,’ He Says” features guitarist Sean Harkness in a swinging affair that puts on glad feelings all around. “Day by Day” features an exotic interpretation by the piano trio. Holland could convince a die-hard pessimist that tomorrow holds sweet fortune for all of us.
Her interpretation of “Desafinado” comes with a special surprise. As you may recall, this Jobim song compares love to music, and sometimes it sounds slightly out of tune. As she sings “We used to harmonize, two souls in perfect time,” everything clicks musically for a lovely, fitting texture. A few moments later, as she sings “And so, what good’s a heart that’s slightly out of tune,” we’re treated to the creative gestures of a true professional—Holland sings the phrase slightly out of tune. Stevie Holland’s song stylist combination of endearing passion and straightforward musicianship makes More Than Words Can Say a true winner.
— Jim Santella
A colorful career of cabaret and theater leads Stevie to jazz. More Than Words Can Say is a solid, swinging, soulful collection of songs offering a diverse variety. Ms. Holland’s latest release was arranged and orchestrated by award winning composer Gary William Friedman. This 12-song collection delves into classic jazz standards from the 1950’s and 1970’s, sprinkled with original compositions all handled with innovation and confidence. Strings enhance the artist’s effortless vocals. A stylish, expressive singer; you might hear essences of Diana Krall and Marilyn Scott. We’re buying what she’s selling here with her creative and powerful attack on hits like “Only You,” the iconic 50’s smash and the opening track on MORE THAN WORDS CAN SAY. Stevie lays it down in a big way capturing the “Wow Factor.” I enjoy this project. It commandingly meanders through the floral memories of the past including the show stopping, “If Ever I Would Leave You,” never would I have imagined a jazz-fringed arrangement of this one, but it’s stunning. The Smoothjazz.com Hot Pick is Stevie’s stellar version of Kenny Loggin’s “This Is It.” The minute I heard it I thought to myself that it was curious that no one else considered covering this one…’Til now. Stevie does it great justice and owns it. Contemporary, cool and classic. Truly, more than words can say, but I did my best to describe this unique and jazzy collection of songs and I hope enough to inspire you to listen for yourself.
— Sandy Shore
All Music Guide
Vocalist Stevie Holland sings a set loaded with nostalgic hits on More Than Words Can Say. Opening with the smash hit “Only You” made famous in the ’50s, Holland’s beautiful voice immediately captures your attention with her soprano range that is accompanied by the exotic riffs of Ole Mathisen’s saxophone and the arrangement and orchestration by Gary William Friedman. With a four octave range that is as exciting as it is soothing, Holland showcases this song in a whole new light that completely removes any doubts about her abilities. She tones things down on “Yesterdays” and reaches for new heights with an up-tempo change that truly sets this song apart from previous renditions. The piano solo by Martin Bejerano is memorable and he livens up the song with his impeccable jazz stylings. Further into the set is a delightful arrangement of Antonio Carlos Jobim’s chestnut “Desafinado.” Holland’s alto range on this bossa nova is ever so gentle, and the guitar accompaniment from Sean Harkness brings the song to another level. Overall, Stevie Holland offers her fans delightful new renditions of some of your old favorites as well as a great way to spend a romantic evening or just kick back in the sun and sand. Go for it!
— Paula Edelstein
You must have muscular chops to do what Stevie Holland attempts. You need a feel for jazz phrasing and, above all, you should be firmly rooted in theater. Holland has it all and succeeds beautifully. The willowy blonde also writes impressive lyrics (check “Firefly”), but few singers can boast the conception provided by producer-arranger-conductor Gary William Friedman. Take Kenny Loggins’ “This Is It.” It begins simply with guitar. By the time the bass enters, it begins to build logically. Add the dramatic know-how of Holland’s voice and you have a complete theatrical experience. They do it with the Schwartz-Dietz classic “By Myself” and Lerner-Loewe’s “If Ever I Would Leave You.” (Being a lyricist, Holland knows how to bring out an internal rhyme like “springtime and spring, I’m.”) Her cabaret instincts take a noxious novelty like “‘Murder, He Says’” and make every dumb word understandable. “Day by Day” swings confidently, with pianist Martin Bejerano descending at the end while Holland soars in the other direction. She feels right at home with the bossa phrasing of “Desafinado,” and her whole range of jazz dynamics emerges from Kern’s “Yesterdays.”
all about jazz
We are enjoying an embarrassment of riches in the area of female jazz vocals. There’s a lot of wheat out there, and some chaff. Here’s some of the whole grain.
Stevie Holland’s previous recording, Restless Willow, demonstrated Holland’s confident grace and the delicacy of her voice. On More Than Words Can Say, Holland pulls out the stops and blows the carbon from her pipes…with strings. She torches the place with the Ram/Rand standard “Only You.” Building through the first chorus, Holland, propelled by piano, organ, and tenor, allows her voice to spread to all its edges, increasing both the temperature and the humidity.
Rather than turn the acetylene down, Holland breaks the knob off on high and propels Jerome Kern’s “Yesterdays,” igniting pianist Martin Bejerano to deliver an incendiary solo. Then she pulls back, cushioned by strings, in her delivery of the ballad “If Ever I Would Leave You,” nudging Bejerano back into plaintive piano thoughtfulness.
Holland proves as capable with contemporary material as standards. She dispatches Kenny Loggins/Michael McDonald’s “This is It” readily, leaving just enough pop to jettison the disc into the adult contemporary market, where it would be welcomed. The Holland/Neil Wolfe original, “Firefly” floats above Hans Glawischnig’s vehicular waltzing bass line. Holland further proves the capable lyricist on the shiny seasonal “Evening Song” (music composed by Gary William Friedman). Stevie Holland is beginning to come into her own. It should be our good fortune as listeners to witness.
— C. Michael Bailey
A dozen songs, with variety being the key word, make up Stevie Holland’s newest album, More Than Words Can Say. Her appealing, warm voice graces old favorites like the pop hit “Only You,” shearing it of the corn that often comes with it, singing with passion without going over the top. Restraint is an admirable quality that this jazz-leaning vocalist has…Her song choices by writers with theater resumes includes “Yesterdays” (Kern/Hammerstein), which she also frees of any stodgy formality (not a small task with a lyric that includes the word “forsooth”!). Additionally, she gets to Camelot’s (Lerner & Loewe) romantic “If Ever I Would Leave You,” and breezes through Schwartz & Dietz’s “By Myself.” For comedy, Stevie takes on what was a raucous Betty Hutton number, “Murder, He Says,” substituting a jazzier, subtler (anything is subtle compared to Hutton) jive for the wildness, in a sort of hip replacement surgery. Another theatre composer vet represented is her husband and musical partner, Gary William Friedman. Theater buffs know him as the writer of musicals like The Me Nobody Knows, Taking My Turn and Platinum. The two collaborated on the album’s title number, an effective and sincere look at devotion.
Stevie also wrote the lyrics to “Firefly” with Neil Wolfe’s music, and Gary’s music is mated to poetic words by Sandra Hochman for “Lovingly.” But it’s the couple’s teamwork that’s best: their other music-and-lyrics pairing is a touching song about a father and daughter attempt at ending an estrangement (“Evening Song”); not expecting miracles from a Christmas reunion, it feels real and has a dignified quieter drama of its own.
Gary is also co-producer (with Tim Peierls) and did the arrangements, orchestrations and conducting. The musical treatments show adventure and put Stevie in comfortable and intriguing settings…With the Kenny Loggins/ Michael McDonald hit “This Is It,” Stevie neatly removes the insistent rhythm that seemed to be the pop record’s raison d’être and slows it down, in a romance-by-the-fireside feel. Adventurous.
The singer has a luscious quality to her voice and some exciting and pretty sound in the higher register…When she lays into notes and wraps them in her velvety, languorous style, it’s quite a joy. Stevie’s New York CD release performance is at Iridium Jazz Club in midtown on June 14th.
— Rob Lester
The first track on this disc is the old chestnut, “Only You.” Halfway through, I took the disc out of the computer and ran upstairs to the living room. I wanted to hear this on the good speakers. The Big speakers. I wanted to be able to turn it up loud…I have never heard a voice this powerful with this much range and – well, on the ballads, Ms. Holland’s voice is sensitive and downright sweet. The combo is not simply backing her – she’s an integral part of the total package…”Only You” is a fine opener for this set. “‘Murder,’ He says” is a question of timing, and Ms. Holland delivers. And the original “More Than Words Can Say” is simply outstanding…I’m fumbling a bit, because “more than words can say” is a perfect way to describe Ms. Holland’s voice. You must hear this. Very highly recommended.
— Doug Boynton, Girlsingers.org
Jazz Improv Magazine
Stevie Holland has moved beyond New York City’s cabaret circuit to work with some top jazz musicians like David “Fathead” Newman and Kenny Washington on Restless Willow, her engaging new CD that announces Holland as a singer with a natural voice that transcends categorization. The transition was so smooth that it would appear to the first-time listener that Holland has always been singing jazz. Actually, she has sung from a wide range of material, and her breadth of interests occasionally emerges on the CD, though the repertoire contains mostly jazz material. There’s James Taylor’s “Sunny Skies” which Holland performs with a light swing in her voice, the first eight bars involving overdubs as she sings harmony as well under her top notes of the introductory chords.
Holland’s own words for “One Touch”, written by Restless Willow collaborator Gary William Friedman, seems targeted for airplay. For Friedman arranged it as a stirring duet with singer Rubén Flores, a Mexican-American singer who shares Holland’s flair for dramatic build-up in performances that become memorable experiences…their harmonic conclusion to “One Touch” matches two singers who unlock the emotional content of the music they sing.
Holland also restyles standards from other jazz singers’ repertoire with her own approach, which involves Friedman’s canny arrangements and her own submersion into the material. “Summertime” starts as a contemplative reverie backed by Sean Harkness’ strumming guitar until the second chorus snaps into a double-time romp, which leads to Harkness’ own double-edged solo before the key change – one edge a model of energetic force and the other retaining the down-home acoustic guitar feel. On the seldom heard “Zoot Walks In”, written by Zoot Sims and Gerry Mulligan with words by Dave Frishberg, Holland swells the notes and lifts the melody through the buoyancy of her voice while infusing the music with her innate sense of swing. David “Fathead” Newman assumes the role of Sims on his solo, professionally and effortlessly played before Holland’s short scat chorus. And just as it seems that Holland’s singing of the jazz chestnut, “Lush Life”, over nothing but George Small’s piano accompaniment, would be yet another standard interpretation, Holland takes the song to another level near its end through controlled and effective vocal projection when she releases the force that she had contained until the end.
Restless Willow provides even some surprises, attributed to Holland’s wide range of experiences. The most memorable is “Jeg Elsker Dig”, which she and Friedman wrote, as she leverages her mother’s Scandinavian influence by singing the tune in both Norwegian and English. Even “Here’s That Rainy Day” is treated to an original arrangement that starts the song with the verse from “Soon It’s Gonna Rain”.
The thoughtful arrangements of Restless Willow integrate her voice with the contributions of the accomplished musicians who join her. With a wide alto range and the ability to burnish notes to a fine sheen, Stevie Holland has recorded a varied album that reaffirms the extent of her unforced talent.
— Bill Donaldson
Vocalist Holland has created an amalgam of jazz, pop and cabaret styles on her third CD. It opens with a zesty “It Might As well Be Spring” that finds her dancing around the melody, with a flute solo by Joe Mennonna. It promises a sprightly album of sunny jazz. She then showcases her ballad strengths on “Love Is Stronger Far Than we”. “Summertime” further demonstrates her flexibility, as it starts out as a laid-back outing seemingly sung from the front porch with just the singer and guitarist Sean Harkness. About a quarter of the way through, bassist Tim Ferguson joins in, the tempo doubles and drummer Kenny Washington really starts driving things along. Yet Holland still sounds like she’s ready to go back inside for some lemonade…“Jeg Elsker Dig” is adapted from Edvard Grieg and sung half in English and half in Norwegian by the Norse-Italian Holland. Then there’s the (pretty much) pure jazz of “Zoot Walks In”, complete with a solo by David “Fathead” Newman on tenor, which Holland scats along with at the end…Overall, Restless Willow is a perfect description of Holland’s spirited take in a variety of settings.
— Ross Boissoneau
All Music Guide
Stevie Holland has a beautiful and flexible voice. Her CD constantly varies the personnel (sometimes featuring pianist George Small and at other times guitarist Sean Harkness) and covers a few different styles. The music includes standards at a variety of tempos, some songs that sound close to show tunes and heartfelt ballads. There are also guest appearances (one apiece) by Rubén Flores (who sings a duet with Holland on “One Touch”), flutist Joe Mennonna and tenor-saxophonist David “Fathead” Newman (who swings on “Zoot Walks In”). Among the most memorable selections are a happy interpretation of “It Might As Well Be Spring”, an up-tempo “Summertime” and a wonderful version of “Stardust” in which Stevie Holland’s voice is backed by just Harkness’ guitar. All in all, this is an impressive effort.
— Scott Yanow
all about jazz
With the title derived from the opening track, “It Might As Well Be Spring,” singer Stevie Holland could be considered the personified restless willow. Holland has an easy vocal style that never falls prey to over-extension. She swings with a confident grace, her phrasing tasteful and accurate. These are the things that may strike the listener upon spinning Restless Willow for the first time. Skip on over to “Summertime” and hear a performance that will not blaze new trails in jazz vocals but does provide a thoroughly enjoyable listening experience.
Restless Willow is a recording that demonstrates that simple entertainment is one of the most important functions of the vocal arts. This thought couples conservative performance with a standard repertoire. Stevie Holland has expertly achieved both of these. Her choice of material is measured. “Summertime,” “How Long has this Been Going On,” “Lush Life,” and “Stardust” are all dispatched with professional skill and youthful exuberance. But Holland does throw a curve. “Zoot Walks In” is the most delightful piece on the record. With music by Zoot Sims and Gerry Mulligan with words by Dave Frishberg, “Zoot Walks In” is a vocalese dream in the hand of the capable Holland. Holland has great support on this recording with the likes of percussionist Steve Kroon and saxophonist David “Fathead” Newman. Ruben Flores duets with Holland on “One Touch,” filling out this fine recording with a measure of class. We should look forward to hearing more from Stevie Holland.
— C. Michael Bailey
Stevie Holland’s newest release Restless Willow is a CD that radiates warmth, as does the singer herself. The New York vocalist spent a few years on the cabaret circuit and has recently turned her attention to jazz. The jazz world should welcome Stevie heartily as she is indeed, a rising star.
Although showing an admiration for Ella and Sarah, Stevie Holland blazes her own trail very nicely. The new album finds the singer and her fine New York group romping through a mix of pop and jazz standards plus some more obscure songs. Stevie’s gently-swinging How Long Has This Been Going On is very classy and is topped only by her perfect rendition of Stardust. The latter finds Holland accompanied by guitarist Sean Harkness, a match made in heaven.
One Touch is a Gary William Friedman original with lyrics penned by the singer. The young singer, Ruben Flores joins Stevie for a quietly joyous performance. It’s a gem!
The Stevie Holland version of Lush Life does justice to Billy Strayhorn’s earliest hit. Interestingly, he wrote Lush Life in 1935, a full three years before he met Duke Ellington. Oddly, Strayhorn didn’t bother to copyright the song until 1949 when Nat King Cole decided to record it. Those who enjoy up-tempo tunes will like Holland’s burning treatment of Summertime and the very hep Zoot Walks In with swinging sax by Dave “Fathead” Newman. Here is a truly honest young songstress whose warmth and stage presence will capture your ear. Lovely music!
— Richard Bourcier