Johanna Graham (v), Martin Bowie (g), Tim Greenhalg (b), Damian Rodd (d).

This début release from Penzance-based jazz vocalist Johanna Graham showcases a fine singer with a palpably individual style. The eclectic track list ranges from The Beatles (“I Will”) to standards (“Stormy Weather”) to more contemporary pop (Kate Bush's “The Man With The Child In His Eyes”). The press release cites the influence of Ella Fitzgerald, Anita O'Day, Julie London and Stacey Kent on the singer. On account of her lyricism, purity of sound, phrasing and sense of space, I would also add Chet Baker to that list. Highlights include a beautifully paced “I'm Through With Love”, James Taylor's classic “Don't Let Me Be Lonely”, plus “Empty Serenade”, one of a brace of self-penned songs by the singer and her guitarist, Martin Bowie. Fringe Magnetic's Rory Simmons guests on trumpet and contributes some fine solos, while the singer's bandmates provide the perfectly weighted and understated accompaniment, with unfussy arrangements courtesy of Bowie.

Peter Quinn


Johanna Graham Quartet - “Don't Let Me Be Lonely”

Years back, there was a fascinating self-help book entitled The Road Less Traveled (Simon and Schuster, 1978) by psychiatrist, M. Scott Peck. The premise of that long-time #1 best-selling effort was simple: in Life sometimes making a riskier choice—where the unknown awaits—can be the most rewarding. Perhaps taking Peck's suggested advice, Don't Let Me Be Lonely by British vocalist Johanna Graham takes a right turn at a musical crossroads and, for the most part, the result is a musically satisfying journey.
The recording offers up eleven interestingly presented selections wherein the vocalist—she from Cornwall-By the Sea—and her session mates make an auspicious splash. It is a noteworthy debut recording.
Graham's vocal approach across the date is intriguing and approachable. She possesses a fine voice that tends to shine on the more energetic pieces. Her intonation is spot on and her rhythmic nuance is ideal. Her vibrato is fast—Eartha Kitt rapid—and when engaged, detracts somewhat from the beauty of her overall sonority. Her dynamic shadings are interesting and not extreme in either direction. Based on this recording, it's obvious that this is a vocalist with some intriguing potential.
There are three well-worn GAS classics on the date ("Stormy Weather," "Summertime," "I'm Through With Love") and Graham performs them well. However, her star shines brighter on the more unusual efforts. For example, a neat rendition—and a terrific production choice—of The Doors' "People Are Strange," is turned inside-out as up-tempo swing and is a perfect vehicle for Graham's interpretative skills. It is indicative of her apparent unique ability to choose wisely and make things happen with fare more well-known in another genre. Kate Bush's "The Man with the Child in His Eyes" also gets the faster take, however, doesn't seem to work as well at the faster tempo.
The piano-less supporting cast are all top-flight players and frame Graham exceptionally well. They swing heavy. Guitarist Martin Bowie sends up some tasty solos ("Don't Let Me Lonely Tonight") as does trumpeter Rory Simmons ("Too Much"). Bassist Tim Greenhalgh and drummer Damian Rodd drive the band exceedingly well.
All things considered, Don't Let Me Be Lonely is an enjoyable introduction to an emerging vocal talent. So, when the musical crossroads choice appears, turn right here.
Track Listing: The Man with the Child in His Eyes; Funny Not Much; I Will; Too Much; I'm Through with Love; Don't Let Me Be Lonely; People Are Strange; Empty Serenade; When Sunny Gets Blue; Stormy Weather; Summertime.
Personnel: Johanna Graham: vocals; Martin Bowie: guitar; Tim Greenhalgh: bass; Damian Rodd: drums; Rory Simmons: trumpet.

Nicholas F Mondello

courtesy of