CD Reviews

Lisa Michel – Shaken & Stirred. Lyrebird Records, Sydney Dec 2008.

Lisa Michel – vocals; with The Shaken & Stirred Band: Kevin Hunt _ pno; Bob Barnard – tpt; Bernie McGann – alt; Lloyd Swanton – bs; Chuck Morgan – gtr; Andrew Dickeson – dms; Fabial Hevia – pcn; Col Loughnan – tnr; James Greening – tmb.

A long awaited solo album from the lady who gave etypejazz their vocal impetus on six albums between 1997 and 2004 and later took herself to Sydney to appear with more of Australia’s great instrumentalists, such as those appearing with her on this outstanding CD. Always the swinging standards singer, Lisa brings her special touch of magic to 15 tunes written between 1910 and 1964, with emphasis on the 1930’s when composers such as Harold Arlen, Eubie Blake, Ira Bloom, Jerome Kern and Cole Porter were laying down some of the best songs to be taken up by the big bands of the era, introducing many of the vocalists who later became prominent as soloists. On this CD, Lisa features six of each up-tempo and ballad songs, two in a lightly Latin tempo, and a rousing finale right out of New Orleans R’n’B that would delight Dr. John and any Second Line band. On these, she alternates her accompaniment between piano-led rhythm, brass and rhythm combos, and the big sound of the full Shaken & Stirred Band, generously bestowing solos on the various musicians who live up to their substantial reputations in every way. Even more generously, Lisa bows out on the last three tunes, handing solo honours to Kevin Hunt, Bernie McGann and Bob Barnard respectively.

Her voice is an instrument in itself, with rhythm, soul and interpretive lyric skill always apparent, at times soaring in perfect high register pitch like Jo Stafford, then moving into the definitive diction of Morgana King on the slow numbers. There are tributes to Peggy Lee and Rosemary Clooney, both originally with big bands, and always apparent is the distinctive Michel touch that places her high on the list of Australia’s best sisters of swing

A final mention of the album presentation, from perfect sound production to the extensive and descriptive liner notes.

Reviewed by Ron Spain


SHAKEN & STIRRED – Debut CD by Lisa Michel.

A CD for all generations.

This CD is infused with remarkable jazz substance, which features some of Australia’s top jazz musicians.  These include:- Bob Barnard (trumpet), Col Loughnan (tenor sax), Bernie McGann (alto sax), Kevin Hunt (piano), James Greening (trombone), Chuck Morgan (guitar), Andrew Dickeson (drums), Fabian Hevia (percussion) and, of course, Lisa Michel (vocals).

It is sweet, subtle, bold, hip shaking, moody and raunchy.  Lisa, Kevin Hunt and James Greening have thought about the dynamics of the whole production and so we go from jazz moments of the earliest genres to the bebop era.  Musical arrangements are by some of the best – Andrew Robertson, Mal Francis and Evan Lohning.  Lisa is an experienced singer with silky threads in those vocal chords.  She can ascent to any note and vocally gets down and kicks the dirt (and tin cans too)!  The trick is that Lisa has many voices.  She is not afraid to give them expression in any of her performances.  Not a singer with one ‘stamp’, but many and that is the beauty of her vocal journey.

There is a smoothness and sparkle in her voice.  Tap a polished crystal glass until it sings and you will get the point.  Her voice is pure, no hint of being battered by life (excuse me; there’s nothing wrong with those voices).  Her story seems to come from the joy, goodness and surprises of life’s many experiences.  Her vocal approach treasures delicacy of tone and when necessary - it’s earthy juxtaposition.

There are 18 numbers on this CD.  The mood and production allows the listener to get ready for ‘the show’.  Opening with ‘As Long as I Live’, ‘East of the Sun’, ‘Something’s Gotta Give’, ‘Memories of You’ (this one is sweet and moody with Kevin Hunt giving us his sensitivity), ‘Shine’ (upbeat and fun), ‘You Make me Feel so Young’ (nice swinging smooth riffs from Chuck Morgan).

Suddenly we are in the 30s and listening to the singer.  Is is Adelaide Hall or is it Lee Wiley?  Another influence is definitely living in the song ‘Don’t Worry About Me’ – a duet by Bob Barnard and Bernie McGann oozes richness and blending tones.  The Latin feel of ‘Pick Yourself Up’ is hip swinging.  ‘Riding High’ is snappy and sharp with the best driving beats of Andrew Dickeson.  The great standards ‘Over the Rainbow’, ‘Blue Skies’, and ‘The Best is yet to Come’ are smooth and a great feeling is conveyed.  The instrumental interlude of Kevin Hunt playing ‘Here’s that Rainy Day/Put on a Happy Face’ medley touches and soothes the deepest part of the heart.  However, I kept returning to ‘It’s a Good Day.’  This is more than a Christmas trifle!  It’s the best musical conversation I have ever heard played by such a gifted bunch of musicians.  Every one had something to say and more.

Andrew Dickeson sets the beat.  James Greening signals the anarchic breakaway to ‘Storeyville’.  Riffs and chords champion the new direction and we are totally in the moment.  Originality, precision and power demand liberation.  All instruments seem to tumble in; the beat changing and the dynamic continues.  The room’s on fire!  Grinding riffs farewell any hint of predictability.  Tantalising, shaky, nimble, relentless musical conversations converge - a part of naughty/nice chaos.  No humility, just the best flexing of jazz chops and muscles teaming with bounce, vigour and individual stories forming the collective sound.

Congratulations Lisa.  What a huge amount of work, dedication and joy you have given us all, putting this together.  One is left with more than a smile on their face.  This CD gives so much joy.  Unashamedly, it is Australian jazz – the light, sun, sea, desert, mystery and the anti-authoritarian attitude, all wrapped in one as they say.


Other Reviews

“A standards repertoire of strength (with the) effortless swing sensitivity of singer Lisa Michel...”

The Weekend Australian ( Review) Ashleigh

“I adored several of your arrangements....very fresh and innovative. You managed to give, in many cases, new leases of life to standards I hear often. I could wax lyrically... especially about you.. out the front. Vocals are superlative. You are gifted, joyful, and to say smooth is to underplay your silken effect entirely. Thank you for what you do, with such obvious enthusiasm and enjoyment; qualities entirely, and happily contagious from your brilliant performance”

Lloyd Bradford (Brad) Syke, Presenter, Triple R FM 88.5

“Wind in the hair...raunchy reading of favourites given another life... with clarity of lyrics from Lisa Michel”

Michael Foster, Canberra Times

“Cool jazz without the Hollywood glamour...a brilliant mix of toe tapping 40s and 50s nostalgia, splashed with a contemporary feel. The ambience this exudes is amazing.”

Kate Kachor, Eleven Magazine

“Some fine talent from “Down Under” is “Up and Over”….no culture gap here musically, relating to the quality of this artist’s renditions. Music is a universal language…as you listen to vocalist Lisa Michel, you will be warmed by her unbridled expression of deliberate and artistic interpretation… a vocalist to transcend appassionato… a performer like Lisa can vent her emotional state for our edification, skilfully and successfully following the composer’s intent and we are all the better for it.”

George W. Carroll. The Musicians’ Ombudsman; Florida USA