By Don Heckman
Jackie Ryan made one of her too-rare Southland appearances Thursday night. And it’s a fair bet that most of her entranced listeners left Vitello’s with the fervent hope that she’ll return, and soon.
Why? Because Jackie is both musical and passionate. Because her rich, dark-toned voice is the perfect vehicle for her dramatic, story-telling style. Because her phrasing can flow with rhythmic lift and swing as easily as it can create atmospheric romance. And because her performances are passionate and alive musical interactions with her listeners.
She did all that and a lot more at Vitello’s, backed with the solid capabilities of tenor saxophonist Rickey Woodard, pianist Otmaro Ruiz, bassist Ryan McGillicuddy and drummer Dean Koba. And, as if that wasn’t enough, she also offered an intriguingly diverse set of songs, mixing familiar standards with less often heard, but equally appealing selections.
For example: Singing Abby Lincoln’s “Throw It Away,” she captured the song’s deepest zen qualities. On the Harold Arlen/Johnny Mercer classic, “Accentuate the Positive,” she revived the gospel swing that is at its heart
The Gershwins’ “I Loves You Porgy” was sung with a passionate understanding of the song’s inner meaning. And “Don’t Let the Sun Catch You Crying” recalled the soulful qualities of the Ray Charles version.
And there was more: the Sherman brothers’ “To the Ends of the Earth,” a hit for Nat “King” Cole, expressed here in Jackie’s own gripping interpretation; a grooving take on “The Gypsy In My Soul”: a tender, Portuguese version of a Jobim classic; and a poignant, intimate and utterly memorable “Two For the Road,” from the Henry Mancini songbook.
Add it all up and the total result was a remarkable musical evening. And, as I said above, a rare one at that. Not just because of Jackie’s too few appearances in L.A., but also because of the uniquely appealing qualities of her performance. As I also said above, let’s hope she returns soon.
Photo courtesy of OpenArt Records.