Sunday, August 19, 2012

Better than the Original?

One thing about Pandora Radio ( is that they can introduce you to new and really great music.  I listen to a lot of Norah Jones, especially her first album, and so I put together a station with her name. But this morning I heard what I thought was a new Norah Jones song called "Dream." I was pleasantly surprised to find a new name for my collection.

With a familiar smooth and unpretentious style, the laid-back and deliberately intricate sound of Priscilla Ahn is a refreshing voice on the folk-jazz scene, one whose work I am certain I will collect.  Many female voices to me are just more of the same. especially when it comes to pop music and for jazz I have very few contemporary vocalists, male oar female, that I tolerate.  But Priscilla has that silkiness and command of her voice that I find intriguing and desirable.

I prefer a voice first of all who does not sing flat or sharp and so hitting those intermediate notes in a complicated measure of music is where I sift out the sheep from the goats.  Norah Jones does this in such a fluid manner I could not help but fall in love with her voice immediately upon first hearing.  Pausing Priscilla's music, searching the Internet for her name, and then continuing with my audition of her "Dream" performance, I had a similar impression.

One of her trademark characteristics is that she breathes into the microphone as she sings and I find this appealing.  Scott Hamilton, an amazing smooth saxophone player, does this with great control and his reed whispers nuances between breaths give something a little extra to a performance making it even more laid back.  With many years ahead of her promising career, this technique of singing is sure to be mastered in a similar manner to Scott's.

There are differences between Jones and Ahn, both of which I find appealing and so I cannot say that I prefer one over the other.  Norah has more experience and with it a command to her proven style that Priscilla seems to lack.  Priscilla has a freshness and a different favor to musical style that holds the ear anticipating the next note and pleasantly surprised when she deviates her vocal style just a bit in the jazz tradition.  It's like choosing between two really good wines: it depends on what your having for dinner that matters.

There is something about youth that appeals to jut about everyone where you encourage young hopefuls and Ahn is no exception.  Her third album, "A Good Day" is on the Blue Note label, and not available in high resolution formats but well worth a listen.  Two others "When You Grow Up" and "In A Tree" are certain to be promising works for you to look back into her evolving style.  Although her vibrato is limited, as she grows I hope to hear more of it show up in her work.

You can hear "Dream" at her MySpace page at Give it a spin. I believe you will be as pleasantly surprised as I was.

Yours for higher fidelity,
Philip Rastocny

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