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Acclaimed Vocalist Libby York's "DreamLand"

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    Posted: 15 Jan 2023 at 10:28pm





Releases January 20, 2023 on OA2 Records




LIBBY YORK is not the kind of jazz singer that needs vocal pyrotechnics to engage an audience. Whether she is singing a ballad or swinging a standard, her deep connection to the lyrics and subtle improvisations on the melody convey an intimacy that makes each song feel like she is telling a story about her own life. On DREAMLAND, York’s newest recording, she once again plies her rich, expressive voice to a set of mostly lesser-done standards that highlight her ability to cut to the emotional core of a song.


 DREAMLAND is York’s fifth CD as a leader and producer. The album follows Memoir (2014), Here with You (2008), Sunday in New York (2003), and Blue Gardenia (1999). DownBeat Magazine gave Sunday in New York four stars and said, “Stylish and cosmopolitan with a broad streak of lush life urbanity, Libby York has a sound that recalls, without any condescension or gratuitous nostalgia, the slightly world weary, been around the block ennui of post war Anita O’Day, Chris Connor and Sarah Vaughan.”


York is a favorite with many top jazz musicians. Over a 40-year career, she has recorded and performed around the country and around the world with jazz luminaries like John Di Martino, Warren Vaché, Russell Malone, Frank Wess, Renee Rosnes, and many more. DREAMLAND was recorded in Michigan with local jazz heroes whose fame extends well beyond the Midwest. Guitarist RANDY NAPOLEON has toured and performed with Benny Green, The Clayton-Hamilton Jazz Orchestra, Michael Bublé, Bill Charlap, Natalie Cole, Monty Alexander, and John Pizzarelli. He also had a 13-year tenure with Freddy Cole. RODNEY WHITAKER is an internationally renowned bassist who performed for seven years with Wynton Marsalis’ Septet and the Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra. He has toured the world with a Who’s Who of legendary jazz artists such as Jimmy Heath, Eric Reed, Cyrus Chestnut, Vanessa Rubin, Dianne Reeves, Cassandra Wilson, Diana Krall, and many others. In a career that spans over 25 years, drummer KEITH HALL has performed with artists that include Wycliffe Gordon, Sir Roland Hanna, Michael Phillip Mossman, New York Voices, Janis Siegel, Luciana Souza, and Terrell Stafford.


York grew up in Chicago in a musical family. Her father sang occasionally with big bands that came through town and wrote a nightlife column for a Northwestern University student magazine. Both her father and mother played piano, and the house was filled with recordings by Sinatra, Rosemary Clooney, and other purveyors of the Great American Songbook. Although she was imbued with music from an early age, she began her singing career at 35, later in life than most jazz artists. Her restless spirit took her on a more peripatetic lifestyle for several years.


York left Chicago in the early ‘70s to attend American University in Washington, D.C., where she met her former husband. She and her husband met a professional chef, and the three of them decided to open the first fine dining restaurant in Rehoboth Beach, Delaware. Because the area was a summer resort, they closed the restaurant for the winter and spent the down time in Key West, Florida, where she was attracted to the lively

night life and the quirky, interesting residents. It was there that she became interested in music and started taking trips to New York City enjoy the jazz scene and start singing with local musicians.


After a few years, her interest in music grew as she became disenchanted with the daily grind of running the restaurant. The partners eventually sold the business, and York and her husband separated. She moved to New York where she lived for 15 years and became integrated in the city’s vibrant music scene. A singer with natural talent, she wanted more formal training to hone her skills and decided to participate in a jazz workshop where she learned the ropes of becoming a professional singer with the renowned singer, composer and activist Abbey Lincoln.


York spent many years in New York as the featured vocalist with an eight-piece big band called Swing Street and began recording in 1999. Her second album, Sunday in New York, was the breakthrough that really put her on the map, and she began her extensive touring career at top venues across the country and Europe, especially Paris.


York moved back to Chicago in 2014 after the death of her longtime life partner, drummer Greg Sergo, and today divides her time between Chicago, New York, Key West, and Paris.


The strength of York’s vocals on DREAMLAND rests on her inventive phrasing, crystal clear articulation, and hard swinging. She performs eight of the 12 songs on the album without percussion. Johnny Mercer is one of her favorite lyricists and she opens the album with “Hit the Road to Dreamland,” from which she took the album’s title. “This Happy Madness” resonates with York because it is about finding love later in life, which she did with her late partner. A nature lover, she finds the lyrics to “Mountain Greenery” especially appealing, particularly the lines about getting out of the city, “Now's the time to trust, / To your wanderlust, / In the city's dust you wait, must you wait / Just you wait!”


York first heard “Cloudy Morning” sung by Peggy Lee. It is a lesser done standard that York finds engaging because of its New York City imagery. York studied with Abbey Lincoln and spent time with her outside of class, so was especially attracted to Lincoln’s “Throw It Away.” The song is about the I-Ching, the ancient Chinese divination text, which is important to York. York likes to mix up her sets with songs that convey different moods and includes “Rhode Island is Famous for You,” for its lighthearted, fun lyrics. ”Still on the Road” and “When October Goes” were made famous by Rosemary Clooney, one of York’s biggest influences. “When October Goes” was composed by Barry Manilow with the late Mercer’s lyrics that were gifted to him by his widow.


York takes a swinging turn with a little funk on “Moonray” and gets sexy with “An Occasional Man.” York loves the dark, nostalgic vibe of “Something Cool,” and closed the album with the upbeat “It’s Love,” a song that she had the memorable privilege to perform with Leonard Bernstein at a party she attended in Key West.


While her cool style is reminiscent of past legends like Peggy Lee and June Christy, Libby York’s conversational style, hip phrasing, superb sense of time, and deep connection to a song’s lyrics, show that the art of masterful storytelling is alive and well in the 21st century.

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DREAMLAND is set for release on January 20, 2023 on OA2 Records and available everywhere.









Edited by snobb - 15 Jan 2023 at 10:29pm
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