Welcome to Ladies Day!
Vocalist MJ Territo celebrates the compositions of classic and contemporary jazz women with her upcoming CD, Ladies Day
On her sparkling new debut album, singer MJ Territo shows off her range and versatility, lending her voice to blues, bebop, bossa and ballads
With her new CD, Ladies Day, singer/composer/lyricist MJ Territo shines a light on a rare collection of tunes by great writers who just happen to be women. Mary Lou Williams, Abbey Lincoln, Patricia Barber, Peggy Lee and Blossom Dearie are just some of the classic icons of jazz and cult favorites represented in this collection of lesser-known songs that definitely deserve to be heard more often.
MJ Territo didn’t set out to focus on women; while making a pre-gig set list, she noticed that several of the songs she chose were written by women. That motivated her to dig deeper in search of material by female composers, and MJ soon realized she could put together a whole evening’s worth of great music from her discoveries. The variety of themes was part of the attraction: Sure, there were love songs, but also tunes about “resilience, self-awareness, self-reliance, and a curiosity about the wider world.”
Territo found herself thinking: “Hmmm … how about getting together a group of women jazz musicians to play them? Wouldn't that be fun?” Pianist Linda Presgrave, who had released two CDs of compositions by women, immediately came to mind. “I knew Linda and I were on the same wavelength where women jazz composers were concerned,” MJ recalls. Impressed by bassist Iris Ornig’s album No Restrictions, the singer invited her on board. Rounding out the Ladies Day Quartet is drummer Barbara Merjan; MJ heard her at a club and recognized the sound she was looking for.
In picking the 14 tunes for Ladies Day, MJ’s debut album, the singer didn’t take an easy route: The CD is full of challenging material. But not only does MJ Territo prove she’s up to the challenge, she sounds like she’s having a ball while she’s at it.
Among the Ladies Day highlights are:
“No Time for Snoozin’,” This Territo original features a piano intro that immediately engages the listener, as do the witty lyrics.
“Everything is Moving Too Fast,” Check out the excellent solos by Ornig and Merjan on this Peggy Lee tune, along with the bluesy, bouncy vocal.
“Cuando Vuelva a Tu Lado” shares a melody with “What a Difference a Day Makes.” Territo sings the Spanish lyric with deep feeling, and also demonstrates her chops in the universal language of vocalese.
The tight band is augmented by special guests on several tracks, including:
“Strange Fascination,” by Mary Lou Williams and Ada Moore, one of Territo’s favorites, which she found in the Mary Lou Williams Archives at Rutgers. Tenor saxophonist Virginia Mayhew, who has released a Williams tribute CD, guests on this tune.
Flutist Andrea Brachfeld is featured on Blossom Dearie’s piquantly amusing “I’m Shadowing You,” along with Territo’s flirty vocal.
Harpist Brandee Younger appears on “True,” by Lorraine Feather and Dave Grusin, taking a sensitive approach on this lovely harp/vocal duet.
The band’s repertoire has grown to more 50 songs by now, so with any luck, Ladies Day Volume 2 won’t be far behind! Let’s all keep our fingers crossed for an equally exciting follow up to this impressive debut recording.
MJ Territo Ladies Day (Jollie Mollie JMM 217) Street Date: August 4, 2017
MJ Territo, vocals, Linda Presgrave, piano, Iris Ornig, bass Barbara Merjan-drums
Andrea Brachfeld, flute (tracks 2, 11), Virginia Mayhew, tenor saxophone (track 6),
Brandee Younger, harp (track 10)