by Jeff Becker
Diane Hubka’s newest release, West Coast Strings (SSJ-USA Records, 2013) finds the warm toned singer working with eight West Coast guitarists including: Anthony Wilson, Mimi Fox, Peter Sprague, Larry Koonse, Barry Zweig, David Eastlee and John Pisano, with Bobby Pierce guesting on Hammond B-3, Jeff D’Angelo on bass for four tracks, John Leftwich on bass for one track, drummer Kendall Kay for six tracks and Enzo tedesco on drums for two tracks. Hubka also plays rhythm guitar on three selections.
Hubka is a Blue Ridge Mountain-bred artist that grew up in Western Maryland in a musical family and learned violin, trombone and guitar from an early age. In 1986 Hubka moved to New York City and was awarded a one-year jazz fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts for private study with vocalist Anne Marie Moss. Hubka also studied piano, voice and guitar privately with: Barry Harris, Harold Danko, Connie Crothers, Sheila Jordan, Jay Clayton, Howard Alden and John Hart. After living in New York and being a part of the City’s jazz scene for two decades, Hubka relocated to Los Angeles in 2004, where she collaborated with pianist Christian Jacob (Maynard Ferguson, Tierney Sutton,) to record Diane Hubka Goes to the Movies, (18th & Vine, USA; SSJ Records, Japan; 2007.) Hubka’s third CD, You Inspire Me (VSOJAZ 2002) was a personal tribute to her love of jazz guitar, with seven virtuoso guitarists playing on alternate cuts.
West Coast Strings finds Hubka in top vocal form and in great company from the various guitar slingers with a well-designed program of standards and other songs reaching into various genres. Hubka demonstrates both her vocal proficiency on thirteen selections and her vocal/guitar skills on tracks 3, 8 and 11. Hubka’s repertorial choices are delectably characteristic, for example, ” It Ain’t Necessarily So,” and “Never Let Me Go,” but Hubka also has some idiosyncratic choices too, for example, “Someone Else Is Steppin’ In” (Denise LaSalle) or “They Say It’s Spring” (Bob Haymes). Hubka also pulls from the talents of her various guitar players for repertoire choices, “Warming to Spring” (David Eastlee, Julie Cresswell) and “Amanhacer” (John Pisano, Jeanne Pisano).
Some of the many highlight include; “It Ain’t Necessarily So” with the organ work of Bobby Pierce and outstanding soloing by guitarist Anthony Wilson. Hubkua is full of the blues on this selection. “Moondance” is a fine duet with guitarist Mimi Fox coaxing some interesting colors from her box while Hubka finds new phrasing for the melody. “Brigas Nunca Mais,” shows Hubka’s command of the bossa feel and singing in a different language. As always, guitarist Peter Sprague delivers a supremely musical statement on the nylon-strung guitar.
There is truly something for everyone on West Coast Strings and if you are a vocalist and/or guitar player, this recording is a must to study the intimate relationship between these two romantic instruments. Fine work, looking forward to West Coast Strings part II.