Reviews

Stephanie Nakasian and her trio are on top of her eventfully amazing 15-song program. It just never lets up. For example, she showcases her wonderful pianist Harris Simon during “So In Love” (Porter). This heart felt wrenching version  will remain with you for some time. “Easy Street” (Rankin/Jones) rings all the bells as Stephanie delightfully swings while ever so gently connecting with her brilliant pianist. The familiar lyrics of “I Concentrate On You” (Porter) are dynamically treated to some of the longest held dramatic notes ever heard. She’s emotionally joyful. Conversely, “End Of A Love Affair” (Redding) is taken at a swift, musically amazing all out pace. There’s even an exciting one of a kind scat included that will just blow you away. It’s just breathtaking. “Don’t Blame Me” (McHugh) captures your attention for over six minutes in a powerfully detailed reading that will have you hitting the replay button. During “Control Yourself” (Previn/Langdon) there’s some delightful musicality second to none. Her high notes here are dazzling.  “You And The Night And The Music” (Schwartz/Dietz) is taken for a slow impressive ride at the start. By song’s end Ms. Nakasian passionately explores the tender sensitive parts with the slightest modern upbeat sweeping touches. Am I the only one who remembered the fine Matt Dennis and Lee Clark swinging title song, “Show Me The Way To Get Out Of This World” of this divine cd? Wow, it’s such a delightful way to conclude this impressive CD. Ms. Nakasian takes it for quite a ride. Her singing here is just down right amazingly high-spirited. Mr. Simon, her most able pianist, is in a class by himself. Throughout this CD he puts the finishing touches like a cherry on a cake. Reviewed by, Dan Singer, InTuneInternational.com. (January 2013) 
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Although she has a dozen previous albums, this is the first I’ve heard by this striking and accomplished singer who makes a lovely job of interpreting a range of classic songs by Cole Porter, Duke Ellington, Jimmy McHugh and others. What makes it special is the beautiful piano accompaniment by Harris Simon and the steady support of bass and drums by Chris Brydge and Billy Williams. Reviewed by, Peter Bevan, Northern Echo. (August 16, 2012) 
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For decades, Stephanie Nakasian has been swinging through an immensely challenging jazz repertoire with astonishing aplomb. Her audacious ventures into vocal territory that others have carefully avoided have resulted in recordings and performances of unrivaled excellence. From pioneering vocal efforts with singer Jon Hendricks and Annie Ross to the rigorous charts of The Danish Radio Big Band and the improvisational intricacies of saxophonists Phil Woods and Scott Hamilton, Nakasian has constantly associated herself with jazz subtleties in uncharted territory. As her legend grows new dimensions reveal themselves. She is a music theorist and scholar (her book It’s Not on the Page! How to Integrate Jazz and Jazz Rhythm into Choral and Solo Repertoire (Self Produced, 2001) is studied widely), as well as a professor at the University of Virginia and The College of William and Mary. Her prescience as a music historian is best witnessed in the patter during one of her gigs, as she continually reveals minutiae and ironies unknown to attending critics. With her talented husband. pianist Hod O’Brien, she is presently mentoring her daughter, Veronica, through the vicissitudes of a musical career. But it is mostly the epic musicality that she has delivered on the bandstand and in the studio that continues to amplify her legacy. Always choosing the thorny path, as a lyricist she has written words to Sonny Rollins’ “Pent-Up House”; as an arranger she has triumphed with Andre Previn’s “Control Yourself”; and as scat mistress, scored with “The Claw” —an uncanny harmonic duet she performs with her daughter. These selections highlighted the O’Brien family’s appearance at New York City’s Kitano on July 28, 2012. The performing precision of these complex undertakings had this reviewer shaking his head incredulously. No less impressive are the selections on Nakasian’s new CD, Show me the Way Capri, 2012). She soars through the lyric density of pianist Horace Silver’s “Nica’s Dream,” the intervallic trials of songwriter Tommy Wolf’s “Spring Can Really Hang You Up the Most,” and the wit of pianist Dave Frishberg’s “Zanzibar.” She performs on the CD with pianist Harris Simon’s trio, also featuring bassist Chris Brydge and drummer Billy Williams. The O’Brien family resides in Charlottesville, Virginia, and its appearance at a Gotham boite is a rarity. But when they arrive it is an event not to be missed. Reviewed by, Nick Catalano, AllAboutJazz.com. (August 11, 2012) 
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Nakasian is a public radio favorite, having been featured on NPR’s “Fresh Air” and other shows. Her singing is easygoing and effortless, even when the tunes are more demanding. The recording was inspired by her work with fellow William and Mary teacher, pianist Harry Simon, and Simon’s trio, with drummer Billy Williams and bassist Chris Brydge, backs Nakasian’s lengthened vocal style. The recording shows a diversity of tunes, from torchy ballads to Cole Porter re-interpretations to straight ahead swing tunes and Latin-style favorites such as “Nica’s Dream”. Nakasian handles the different styles with ease, including doing some fine scatting and ripping the blues, along with a fine job on Dave Frishberg’s “Zanzibar.” Reviewed by, Kyle O’Brien, Jazz Society Of Oregon, jsojazzscene.org. (July 2012) 
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Nakasian has been a standout singer on the national scene for a number of years. Possessed of both a sweet, velvety voice and an ability to select great tunes that others overlook, Nakasian hits both of these targets on her new release. Although she’s the wife of New York monster pianist, Hod O’Brien, she chose a trio led by pianist Harris Simon for this session. Several of the 15 winners here merit special mention. “Control Yourself” was written by André and Dory Previn, and this is the first version of it since Jackie and Roy absolutely nailed it many moons ago. “Times Are Getting’ Tougher than Tough” was actually written by Van Morrison. Still, there’s no question that this staple for Jimmy Witherspoon is a goodie. Then there’s Dave Frishberg’s “Zanzibar,” a tune gaining in stature over the last decade, with Frishberg’s wit fully on display. “Nica’s Dream” has become a jazz staple over the years, and Nakasian scats her way through it with ease. On these and lots more, Nakasian is well worth hearing. Reviewed by, George Fendel, Jazz Society of Oregon, jsojazzscene.org. (July 2012) 
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O’s Notes: Stephanie sings a wonderful set in front of the swinging Harris Simon Trio. They shine across all fifteen songs with excellent inflection and passion from Nakasian. We enjoyed the interactions on “I Concentrate on You” and “Nica’s Dream” with cool scatting and solos by Simon (p) and drummer Billy Williams. Bass duty is handled by Chris Brydge who walks (runs) his bass in concert with Stephanie’s scatting on “The End of a Love Affair”. These are only a few highlights in a rousing performance. Reviewed by, D. Oscar Groomes, O’s Place Magazine, OsPlaceJazz.com. (July 2012) 
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Established vocalist and jazz educator Stephanie Nakasian teams with pianist/composer/jazz educator Harris Simon for this collection of jazz standards.  Bassist Chris Bridge and drummer Billy Williams complete the Simon trio. The collaboration of the jazz educators at College of William and Mary led to some gigs which were recorded live.  The fifteen songs here range from the familiar—”Lonesome Road,” “So In Love,” “Don’t Blame Me”—to the somewhat obscure—”Zanzibar” (Dave Frishberg) and “Times are Getting’ Tougher Than Tough” (Van Morrison) and “Nica’s Dream” (Horace Silver.) The album title is from the less familiar Matt Dennis/Les Clark tune, the fifteenth and concluding song on this CD.   Choice of materials also range from sultry ballads to upbeat songs with scat singing. It was a true collaboration rather than a trio accompaniment for a vocalist.  Piano stylings are tasteful and always interesting. This CD was recorded live but sound quality is excellent.  There are no extraneous sounds to suggest a live recording.  One surprise was diatonic harmonica on “Times are Getting’ Tougher”… and chromatic harmonica on “Ill Wind.”  Since there was no mention of this on the liner notes, I inquired of Ms. Nakasian. She reported that Mr. Simon has overdubbed the blues-style harmonica on the former and chromatic on the latter.  Nice touch!  Ms. Nakasian has appeared with her husband, pianist Hod O’Brien, for the Jazz Society of Pensacola on two occasions.  Her most recent was a performance for Pensacola JazzFest about six years ago.  Both efforts were warmly received. This album will appeal to those who love straight-ahead jazz vocals and piano. Reviewed by Norman Vickers, JazzPensacola.com. (July 2, 2012) 
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Music is all about chance encounters which lead to musical collaboration [especially within Jazz], and that is the case on Show Me The Way To Get Out Of This World when vocalist Stephanie Nakasian met composer and pianist Harris Simon. A string of successful live performances has led them to document their special relationship on this album. Show Me The Way… contains fifteen songs on the theme of love lost and found. I have to say that Ms. Nakasian has a wondrous voice – part Ella, part Sarah, and a strong dash of Cleo Laine. She swings and bops, scats and seduces as an equal opportunity performer, and makes each song her own throughout. Harris Simon and his trio are the perfect foil, creating a succession of launch pads for her enticing voice. Along with Harris Simon on piano, the rest of the trio are Chris Brydge on bass and Billy Williams on drums. The song book is a varied one, drawing on material by Duke Ellington, Van Morrison, Cole Porter, Horace Silver, Harold Arlen, André Previn and many others. The songs are: “Lonesome Road,” “So In Love,” “Lucky So and So,” “Easy Street,” “Nica’s Dream,” “I Concentrate On You,” “The End Of A Love Affair,” “Don’t Blame Me,” “Spring Can Really Hang You Up The Most,” “Times Are Gettin’ Tougher Than Tough,” “Ill Wind,” “Control Yourself,” “You And The Night And The Music,” “Zanzibar,” “Show Me The Way To Get Out Of This World.” Show Me The Way… is a wonderfully high-spirited album with many musical highlights. The partnership between singer and musicians is a perfect one and I don’t think I have heard such a great Jazz album in some time. Highly recommended. Reviewed by, mpeters, MusicWatch #12, the-boderland.co.uk. (June 26, 2012) 
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I have to admit that normally the more traditional standard singer simply is not my cup of tea. I don’t like tea. I do like Stephanie Nakasian! Show Me The Way To Get Out Of This World is her new release which hits the street on June 19th, 2012, on the Capri Records label, and this release embraces everything good about vocal jazz. While she is certainly well grounded in the past, Nakasian embraces the current as well as the future with a fearless virtuosity that you will not being hearing in your local hotel lounge anytime soon! Joined by the Harris Simon Trio there is an intimacy to the recording as though you were the only one in the room. Opening with the stunning “Lonesome Road” there is an organic quality that seems to transcend genre and time itself. I first heard this tune on the old Andy Griffith show but not like this. Suddenly Nakasian breaks into a swing allowing pianist Harris Simon to stretch out and the release transforms itself from the wistful melancholy to a tune of joyous abandon with Nakasian’s exemplary ability to scat and create a delightful texture of feel and allow the listener to become emotionally engaged. As a critic or jazz advocate as I prefer to be called, one knows age is beginning to catch up when standard singers are doing Van Morrison. The blues infused swing of Morrison’s “Times Are Gettin’ Tougher Than Tough” swings and is an ebullient take on a tune that one remembers long after the last note has faded. “You And The Night And The Music” is a tender somewhat melancholy ballad that shows off Nakasian’s pristine vocals and immaculate phrasing. Far from the more standard release we are treated to more traditional swing, bebop roots, vibrant poly rhythms and textured harmonic movement that takes what could be considered the more typical and elevates Nakasian to the level of special! As vocal releases go, Show Me The Way To Get Out Of This World is easily one of the better eclectic releases of the year and certainly a new release to mark on your calendar! Reviewed by, Brent Black, CriticalJazz.com. (May 22, 2012) 
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Listeners in search of excellence in female jazz vocals will find this CD a marvelous addition to their collection… VERY high energy on the opener, “Lonesome Road“, with super depth to her vocal quality.  All kinds of variety in the 15 songs picked for your enjoyment.  I found lots to enjoy, but my absolute favorite was Stephanie’s “down home” rendition of “Times Are Gettin’ Tougher Than Tough“… some excellent harmonica, & it’s easy to picture her as a gun moll with some Kansas City hood.  Perfect blend between the instruments and her incessant upbeat energy all the way through the album, whether it’s down&out or way-up-on-top.  I give this a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, with an “EQ” (energy quotient) rating of 4.98.  Reviewed by, Rotcod Zzaj.com, Issue #126. (2012)

"Stephanie Nakasian: Paying Tribute To Billie Holiday"  Click the graphic below to listen to Stephanie's interview with Terry Gross, on NPR Fresh Air

Vocal virtuosity…broad range of material that showed her assurance on easygoing ballads, soft, Brazilian scat singing, and punchy pep songs.” - John S. Wilson, The New York Times 

She has all the feel and charm of an early Ella Fitzgerald.” - Tempo, New Orleans, LA 

For Stephanie Nakasian it’s all about Swing - Richmond Times-Dispatch 

Swings and scats with authority… “Evokes Ella and Sarah without sounding overly derivative“… “Sensuous” Mike Joyce, The Washington Post 

…one of the important jazz singers in the world today.” New Biographical Encyclopedia of Jazz (Oxford Press)