Janis Mann
A Perfect Time
(Pancake Records)

     Like the best jazz singers, which she is, Janis Mann always knows where the pulse is.
Thus, her decision to record a CD with four different world-class drummers and two
world-class bassists makes sense. And, if that were not enough, Mann has pianist
Tamir Hendelman handling arrangements and Jeff Clayton on reeds. Those drummers
are Peter Erskine, Paul Kreibich, Joe LaBarbera and Roy McCurdy and the bassists
are John Clayton and Chuck Berghofer. You can judge a singer by the accompanists
she keeps and, as you can see, Janis Mann works with and keeps only the best. It truly
does not get any better, folks.
     Repertoire is one of Mann's many gifts. A Perfect Time opens with a charming arrange-
ment of the Van Heusen-Cahn classic "All My Tomorrows,"featuring a catchy bass solo by
John Clayton. For some reason Harry Warren's lovely "Summer Night" is seldom recorded.
Although written in four Hendelman chose to do it as a tender jazz waltz and the result is
most appealing. Mandel's gorgeous but inexplicably little-known "Quietly There" (lyrics
by Morgan Ames) is given a light bossa feel. Only the better singers can work effectively
with just a bass and even fewer can stay in tune while backed by only drums. But Mann
sings the first chorus of Stephen Sondheim-Leonard Bernstein's "Cool" (sung by the Jets
in West Side Story) backed only by Roy McCurdy, and she makes it seem effortless.
Space doesn't permit a discussion of each selection but she chose a delightful mix of
well-known (Just in Time) and lesser known (Sharing the Night With the Blues).
      Her range, rich timbre and a rare combination of power and perfume have often
invited comparisons to Sarah Vaughan. In addition, her crisp phrasing and manner of
coloring lyrics is reminiscent of Carmen McRae. But to have a sound and style that are
unmistakably your own is a prerequisite of greatness in jazz and Mann possesses a
uniqueness that sets her apart. She is the complete jazz singer and, thankfully, one who
cares about text and makes lyrics believable.
      Fortunately, this CD is gaining the national attention it deserves, reaching (as this is
being written) ninth on the national Gavin Jazz Chart. A special bonus is the inclusion of
a duet version of "Old Devil Moon" that features Mann and her friend, the noted
Grammy-winning vocalist Diane Schuur. For information on Janis Mann and her recordings,
visit her website at www.JanisMann.com.

- Roger Crane

   L.A. Jazz Scene, September 2008