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 Friday, 27 November 2015
“Wake Up, Fall Asleep” With Tammy Scheffer (2010, Inner Circle Music) PDF Print
Written by Andrea Canter, Contributing Editor   
Sunday, 15 May 2011

Wake Up, Fall Asleep

With so many top-notch jazz musicians come to the U.S. from Israel, it’s perhaps surprising that vocalists have not been a significant part of the tidal wave. Tammy Scheffer’s debut as leader, Wake Up, Fall Asleep, should signal a seismic shift in that trend. The Belgin-born Scheffer grew up in Israel surrounded by music, finding jazz to her liking in high school and soon performing professionally. Influenced early on by improvising instrumentalists and composers, she further embraced modern jazz as a student at Israel’s famed Rimon School of Jazz and Contemporary Music. In 2007, Tammy made the move to Boston to attend the New England Conservatory. Along the road to graduation, she participated in Betty Carter’s Jazz Ahead (2008) and Tel Aviv Jazz Festival, and performed at the Regatta Bar and Fat Cat. She’s also appeared as vocal guest on recent recordings by Michael Feinberg and Brian Hogans, while performing with Kevin Mahogany, Aaron Goldberg, Anat Fort and more. 

For Wake Up, Fall Asleep, Scheffer assembled a cast of hefty hitters who, like Scheffer, deserve  (and will undoubtedly gain) higher profiles—Andrew Urbina (alto sax), Steve Pardo (tenor sax), Chris Ziemba (piano), Brad Barrett (bass) and Ronen Itzik (drums). With the exception of an exceptional “When You Wish Upon a Star,” Scheffer contributes all compositions and wordless arrangements. The result is a magical, invigorating set that emphasizes the human voice as a melodic and highly versatile instrument, somewhat suggestive stylistically of Judi Silvano, Gretchen Parlato, Kendra Shank, Tessa Souter… and not like any other. Scheffer has the agility and panache of a seasoned horn player and the imagination of the brightest stars of her generation. 

Tammy Scheffer
The set starts with a sputtery samba-esque swing, “I Can’t See You Now,” Scheffer harmonizing with the saxes (sometimes it is hard to discriminate human from brass) over the rhythm section’s swaying pulse; you expect the vocalese to morph into Portuguese at any moment. Ziemba, a protégé of Fred Hersch, adds lyrical and rhythmic zest, and an exquisite closing duet with Scheffer.  “When You Wish Upon a Star” showcases the many talents of the full ensemble, a pulsating vamp from piano and bass, a tilted, a calliope-like refrain from saxes, rhythmically thrusting lines from Scheffer that are mirrored in the sax solos, a swirl of tropical percussion from Itzik. At every turn there’s another delight, with or without words.  

“9 to 5” is brooding and folkloric, featuring an elegant, wistful solo from Pardo; Scheffer and bassist Barrett engage in sensual counterpoint on “Welcome to Brooklyn,” the harmonies with voice and horns reminiscent of the sounds of the vocal ensemble MOSS. “Rega Rega! (Wait a Minute, Wait a Minute)” has a quirky military march meter countered by a near-liturgical vocalese that evolves as a sideways arrangement of “Caravan” punctuated with more boppish gymnastics from Scheffer and the horns. Credit drummer Itzik and pianist Ziemba with the disc’s most entertaining rhythmic drama. “The List” has a lumbering gait as piano and voice weave in and out, opening the door for a freer set of experiments for voice and horns. 

The title track, “Kum, Shan (Wake Up, Fall Asleep)” moves softly like a film backdrop, Urbina an urban snakecharmer, Barrett equally assertive. Scheffer travels lightly and persuasively on her own to set up a final incantation that calls to higher spirits. “Home Is Where My Laptop Is” has all the charm of the title, a tropical-grooved breeze with Scheffer’s nonverbal lyric and Pardo’s fluttery sax seemingly telling a story of the fast and ever-changing pace of modern life. 

The finale “Hakol Yihye Beseder (Everything ‘s Going to be Just Fine)” begins with a delicate piano solo before Scheffer and the horns gently embellish a melody suggestive of a traditional folksong. It’s a stunning close of a stunning debut from an artist (and artists!) who has much to say with or without words.

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