by Jeff Becker
If you had to use two words to describe Leslie Lewis and her debut CD Of Two Minds it would have to be authentic and articulate. If you could use more than two words the list would be so vast that it would take days to read. Some of those descriptive words would be lush, like a fine weathered horn, in the pocket, burning, swinging hard, and ala Carmen McRae. Not to say she is a complete cop of McRae, by no means. Lewis is her own stylistic vocalist, but what I do mean is she has certainly soaked in her fore-sisters and taken the painstaking, time consuming, commitment it actually takes to become fluent in the language of be-bop.
Lewis is joined by the Gerard Hagen Trio, (Gerard Hagen; piano, Domenic Genovea; bass, Jerry Kalaf; drums) who also could be described as fluent, cohesive and absolutely swingin’. Now, let us not forget that Hagen and crew are also brilliantly accompanying Lewis with nice interaction and the maturity not to step all over the vocals. This disc also includes guest artists Gary Foster (alto sax/alto flute), Rob Lockart (tenor sax), Ron Stout (trumpet) and Larry Koonse (guitar). The entire ensemble is a well oiled machine backing Lewis who absolutely holds her own in the group. The vocals are strong, out front and in command when in the spotlight.
The arrangements of these classic gems; In Walked Bud; I Got it Bad and That Ain’t Good; Nature Boy; Honeysuckle Rose’ ‘Round Midnight; Well You Needn’t; How Deep is the Ocean; Hello Young Lovers; But Beautiful are all arranged by pianist Gerard Hagen. This CD also touts all Los Angeles, California musicians a true insight to what the state has to offer. If this is what you can see and hear in the clubs, then L.A. and Orange Counties are truly fortunate. Leslie Lewis and the Gerard Hagen Trio are the epitome of be-bop vocal jazz and convey the language of these standards with true artistry. My advice; pick up a copy today for your jazz collection, it would be a true addition!!