L. A. Jazz Scene - July 2007
The American Rag - October 2007
JANIS MANN with the MIKE MELVOIN TRIO
at THE VIBE
Just a week ago, we were listening to a fine jazz program in this same room, well
attended by a number of jazz artists in the audience. With so much available talent
in the room, the leader of the featured band asked some to come up and do a tune,
including vocalist Janis Mann. As she moved into the first line lyrics of "I Thought
About You," my wife and I exchanged a silent look of agreement to return on Mann's
scheduled appearance here, a week away. This venue, "The Vibe" at Landings
Restaurant within the Airtel Plaza Hotel in Van Nuys, is quickly establishing itself
as the site of wonderful jazz programming.
Mann stepped on stage with a likeable East-Coast forthrightness that revealed her
desire to please the audience with the vocal messages and joys of jazz. She was
delightfully unpredictable as to how and where she took her vocals, adding nice
elements of surprise, performance technique, and deep depth of emotion. Opening
with "Polka Dots and Moonbeams," she had a commanding presence over the room.
Working with a hand-held microphone, she had the freedom to move about, seemingly
making eye contact with most everyone in the room, as though she was singing to
each person individually, and that included each member of The Mike Melvoin Trio
accompanying her. This was the first time they had worked together, but these
musicians made it seamless and cohesive.
The Trio consisted of Mike Melvoin (leader, piano), Tony Dumas (bass), and Ralph
Penland (drums). Melvoin displayed great sensitivity and responsiveness to Mann's
vocal spontaneity and expressiveness, weaving colorful inventive bits into his support.
He clearly enjoyed every second of the music, judging by his smiles. Instrumental
tunes by this excellent Trio, "Alone Together" and "All The Things You Are" were
full, rich treats.
Mann was delightfully open, taking you into her emotions and expressing her thoughts
and feelings in her music, that made her performance both moving and fun. She opened
a few tunes singing without accompaniment, with just bass coming in after several
bars and the Trio following, as on "I Thought About You" and "The Nearness of You."
Mann seemed to enjoy tweaking tune endings, as she and the Trio playfully extended
the leaving of several songs, with the challenge of adding new and old musical tags,
to everyone's amusement. I was reminded of the late clarinetist, Abe Most, who often
joked about putting out a CD of only such tune endings, created on the spot during
live jazz performances. He once said that he almost reached his mythical goal of 500
Other tunes included "Love Walked In," "You Don't Know What Love Is," "You'd Be
So Nice To Come Home To," "I Want To Be Loved," "I Cried Last Night," "That's All,"
and her favorite song, "Here's To Life," with its significant and meaningful lyrics
beautifully and sensitively sung, by a one-of-a-kind vocalist, Janis Mann.
-- Harvey Barkan