Change of Heart
'Think a thicker, darker-hued Diana Krall cut with Sheila Jordan and Shirley Horn.' James Adams, The Globe and Mail 'I very much like the singing, the choice of tunes, and the impassioned interplay between players. There is a special kind of intimacy here - one that comes from people caring about what they do and enjoying doing it together.' Donald Elfman, Director, Koch Jazz, New York. Change of Heart was named 'Outstanding Jazz Recording of 2002' at the Prairie Music Awards. The album showcases five original tunes from the Juno nominated jazz pianist/composer Knut Haugson - for which Brooks penned lyrics. Martha has performed evenings with the Winnipeg Jazz Orchestra and the Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra and has made numerous appearances at the Jazz Winnipeg Festival. She has appeared at Toronto's Top 'O the Senator, and Ottawa's Bayõu Club. Her international appearances have been at the Reykjavik Jazz Festival, The Basement in Sydney, and most recently a concert in Berlin. The first-rate trio backing Brooks are: Knut Haugsoen, piano; Steve Hamilton, bass; and Kelly Marques, drums & percussion. REVIEWS jazzreview.com By Richard Bourcier Canadian jazz vocalist Martha Brooks is based in Winnipeg, Manitoba, a municipality that prides itself as being a city of extremes. Anyone who has endured a Winnipeg winter will agree. More than 40 languages are spoken in the city and one of them is 'jazz', a language Martha Brooks speaks with confidence and authority. As this CD is released, Martha is playing the world class Winnipeg Jazz Festival with her trio. Trained as a coloratura soprano, Brooks has a range of three and a half octaves. Martha is also a playwright, novelist and lyricist. Her talents as a songwriter are showcased nicely on this CD. The team of pianist Knut Haugsoen and Martha Brooks penned five of the eleven songs. Spencer Williams' 'Basin Street Blues' is also given some modern lyric revisions by the vocalist. The quartet has been a part of the local jazz scene for six years. Like another Canadian jazz vocalist, Holly Cole, Martha Brooks places her personal trademark on any song she performs. Witness her treatment of 'Deed I Do' and 'Don't Blame Me.' In spite of it's traditionally bouncy demeanor, Brook's delivery of 'Deed I Do' turns the 1926 hit into a sexy and sultry love song. Steve Hamilton's bass is a prominent part of the quartet's sound. Hamilton is an outstanding player who has performed with Ranee Lee, Jon Faddis and Eddie Henderson. Knut Haugsoen's sensitive and truly inventive piano and arranging is classy and enjoyable. Add a passionate drummer like Kelly Marques and listen to the group really cook on something like 'How Deep Is The Ocean.' The singer and pianist penned the hauntingly beautiful 'Since You've Gone' and both perform their composition with deep feelings. This tune is a gem and other originals on this album are equally satisfying. I truly enjoyed this fine CD and think you will too. THE GLOBE AND MAIL By JAMES ADAMS Jazz is perhaps the most literary of musical genres, having inspired writers as varied as Ralph Ellison, Geoffrey Dyer, Jack Kerouac, Tom Piazza, David Huddle and Bart Schneider to write fiction inspired by it's practitioners or emulative of what they play. But it's rare for a jazz musician to be a writer of fiction, and vice versa. Winnipeg's Martha Brooks is one of these rarities. Earlier this week Brooks won the $15,000 Governor-General's Award for English-language children's literature for her young-adult novel, True Confessions of a Heartless Girl. It was something like Brooks's fourth 'trip' to the G-Gs in 10 or 11 years but her first victory, and it followed on a three-night stand with a quartet earlier this month at Toronto's premier jazz club, Top o' the Senator. Brooks has been a serious singer of jazz and sometime composer for more than eight years. How serious is perhaps best demonstrated by the fact her most recent and so far only recording, Change of Heart (five original tunes, six covers), won the outstanding jazz album prize at the Prairie Music Awards in September. Her voice -- think a thicker, darker-hued Diana Krall cut with Sheila Jordan and Shirley Horn -- is going to be heard in February accompanied by the Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra, then she's off to the Reykjavik Jazz Festival in Iceland. Both sides of the Brooks aesthetic were on display at this week's Governor-General's Awards ceremony. After she made her one-minute acceptance speech, she sang a cappella Stella by Starlight, the Victor Young-Ned Washington classic with it's lyrics about 'the murmur of a brook at eventide/That ripples by a nook where two lovers hide.' 'I'd been vocalizing that morning, which I always do,' she recalled from her Winnipeg home a couple of days afterward. 'And I was humming it [Stella]; it's such a beautiful piece of music.' Later, at the sound check for the ceremony, the lyrics for Bye Bye Blackbird 'bubbled up from [her] unconscious' and she sang those into the microphone. Gordon Platt, the Canada Council's literary officer, suggested with a chuckle that she sing her acceptance speech.Brooks thought probably not, but the idea had been planted: 10 minutes before she took the podium, she decided, 'I'm going to sing Stella by Starlight.' Brooks actually has been singing longer than she has been writing. In fact, singing was prescribed for her in the early sixties as a way of preparing her for surgery for a congenital thoracic defect. Before the surgery, her childhood years had been plagued by bouts of pneumonia and chronic bronchitis. With the operation, 'they broke my heart bone and I found my two heart's voices, writing and singing.' Brooks acknowledges that, after publishing eight acclaimed works of fiction, the music side of her life 'is starting to heat up. I'm still feeling in control of it; there's an interesting balance between it and the writing. But who knows? Who says control is such a good thing anyhow?' STYLE MANITOBA By RANDALL McILROY These are hard times for understatement in jazz vocalizing, when attitude is so often confused with the essence. With more lungs than most, there was never any doubt that Winnipeg's Martha Brooks had the chops, but that power and her penchant for drama - she is an award-winning author, after all - might have overwhelmed the material in her debut, Change of Heart. No worries there. Building on a rapport with pianist/co-writer Knut Haugsoen in particular but also trusting to the redoubtable bassist Steve Hamilton and percussionist Kelly Marques, Brooks has fun with feeling. The five original songs encourage investigation rather than grandstanding (check the handsome Trinidad and wry Lip Sync). The standards are chosen well and plumbed adroitly; it's how you tell them.