La Tanya Hall a classy jazz singer with dulcet tones, at Birdland

La Tanya Hall, photo Lucy Komisar.

By Lucy Komisar

La Tanya Hall is a classy cabaret singer whose moody voice ranges from low to high in dulcet tones with a distinctive jazzy inflection. Songs are delivered with a mellow, honeyed often understated sound which sometimes has a hint of New Orleans.

Hall was at Birdland Theater with Unison, a newly formed trio led by her husband Andy Milne on piano, featuring John Hebert on bass and Clarence Penn on drums. In the performance I saw, they were joined by the brilliant Michael Leonhart on a soulful trumpet. There’s a bit of modern atonality and an erratic beat to the music.

Among my favorites were Nat Adderly‘s “All you need to say” and Theolonius Munk‘s “Pannonica,” a tribute to the “patron saint of jazz” Pannonica de Koenigswarter,” a wealthy British-born New York supporter of musicians such as Munk and Charlie Parker. Then homage to Raymond Hubbell‘s 1916 “Poor Butterfly” recorded by Sarah Vaughn.

More directly political, she did her own lyrical version of Joni Mitchell‘s 1968 anti-Vietnam war song, “The Fiddle and the Drum.”

“And so once again/ My dear Johnny my dear friend/ And so once again you are fightin’ us all….
Oh, my friend/ How did you come/ To trade the fiddle for the drum?…
Oh, my friend/ We have all come/ To fear the beating of your drum.”

Her notes were soft and tender, almost covering up the horror of the text that seems forever with us.

La Tanya Hall. Birdland Theater, 315 West 44th St, New York City. (212) 581-3080.
November 14, 2019. For more sounds.

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