MJ Territo‘s latest recording is a celebration of women in jazz. Songs such as “No Time for Snoozin’,” “Strange Fascination” and “You Gotta Pay the Band” display the humor, wisdom and romance that classic vocal jazz is often imbued with.
Introducing MJ Territo
Upstate New York-based vocalist, writer, composer/lyricist and music educator, MJ Territo’s newest CD, “Ladies Day,” finds the performer paying homage to female songwriters and arrangers. To do this, Territo put together an all-female ensemble to play classic jazz. In the midst of classic covers is one original song written by Territo.
The band Territo put together for the project includes Linda Presgrave on piano, Iris Ornig, bass, and Barbara Merjan on drums. To supplement the main ensemble, Territo added Andrea Brachfeld on flute, Virginia Mayhew, tenor saxophone, and Brandee Younger on harp.
Inspiration for “Ladies Day”
The inspiration for the “Ladies Day” project came about as Territo was preparing songs for her performances. She was impressed by the number of female songwriters and arrangers there were. From that point, Territo decided to focus on works by women. The result is a 14-song CD that demonstrates the complexities of classic jazz.
“No Time for Snoozin'”
This track is a Territo original. While it makes for fine personal listening, the tune sounds as though it could belong to a mature female lead in a musical. Lyrically and musically, it is as upbeat and playful as its name suggests. As a vocalist, Territo has a warm, natural tone that is used effectively here. The narrative is spun by a wise woman dishing out life advice. The singer gives listeners a list of esoteric and disparate things to be happy about. The rhymes and images are unexpected “lilacs in spring time/ Tony Bennett in swing time” is a particularly nice line. Given such artful lyrics at times, some listeners might be disappointed at the rhyme of “happy” and “crappy.” Or it might be humorous, depending on taste.
The music is crisp and lively and serves as sonic punctuation. Listeners can tell which part of the chorus is coming up by listening to the instrumentation alone. The music is light as a tap dance performed by agile feet.
This is a cover song. Still, Territo does manage to make the song her own. Territo’s voice is smoky with a hint of vibrato, as she weaves the narrative of a woman who resisted falling in love with a man she didn’t like upon first meeting. Her voice qualities indicate wonder as she attempts to figure out how she stumbled into love.
The tenor saxophone solo is a nice touch, especially when bits of saxophone show up in spurts toward the end of the song. The classic jazz piece is mostly characterized by clear sounds of drum and piano, so the interspersed saxophone works well.
“You Gotta Pay the Band”
The lyrics are sassy and smart. The slower pace of this song compared to some of the others on the recording, coupled with the sparse instrumentation, sets the scene for the end of the party. The song’s title could be completely metaphorical, but the initial impression is that it is supposed to be literal and it refers to the end of an actual party. Classic jazz songs lend themselves to the imagining of night scenes. This is another song that offers wisdom to listeners. When the fun is over, you have to pay the consequences.
The bass is a deep-voiced whisper that listeners can just hear every once in a while. Then it is showcased in a low-key solo. The piano and drums continue to play softly. Territo has more power in lower registers for the most part on this recording. However, when reaches the upper-end of her range for the final note, it sounds appropriately wistful, not strained.
“Ladies Day” will be available Aug. 4, 2017.