Wednesday, June 16, 2010

The Fabulous Keiko Lee

It’s always exciting when the Leopard gets to hear some great new talent. Recently, I was downloading some Stevie Wonder music when I came across an out-of-print album of jazz interpretations of Wonder's music by several artists. Most of the versions of Stevie’s most popular tunes by the well known jazz musicians like Ramsey Lewis and Ahmad Jamal are very fine,  but the standout for me was a rendition of Stevie’s relatively obscure tune “Too Shy Too Say”  from his album Fulfillingness’ First Finale that really stood out for me. The singers’ warm, husky croon cut right to my heart, and made a song I’ve know for most of my life suddenly sound new and fresh again. Stevie’s lyrics suddenly became more profound to me than ever before. I immediately Googled the source of this mysterious and beautiful voice.

It was Japanese born pop/jazz singer Keiko Lee, the who emits a sound that brings to mind great jazz singers such as Shirley Horn, Billie Holiday and  Nina Simone. I immediately downloaded everything I could find.

 Ms. Lee turns out to be an exceptionally prolific artist, with many recordings to her credit covering many genres of music, R&B, pop & rock.  Although I enjoy her unique voice in almost anything she does, in jazz setting with a small group I think she’s at her best.

(Click on title to listen to Keiko's version of "'Round Midnight")

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