Lorraine Feather

Released February 9, 2010

Grammy Nominee for Best Jazz Vocal Album 2011

YouTube: https://music.youtube.com/playlist?list=OLAK5uy_nbAF0GPGi73HBPImQcl6_-RGYrRstKxEc

Spotify: https://open.spotify.com/album/0GAg3FCKF9hNp4PpzF79hb?si=a6eWjN4cRxCj4d1N1HDlHw


Jazz-oriented singers who write even some of their own music are a relatively rare breed – and most of the few that try it are held back by insecurities.  Nearly all of the ones I’ve heard are afraid to let their songs stand or fall on their own. As a way of hedging their bets, they introduce these songs at great length, so much so that by the time they finally start singing, the song itself starts to seem redundant – you feel like you’ve already heard it.  One of the things I like best about Lorraine Feather, contrastingly, is that her songs are expertly crafted enough to be heard without any set-up.  It’s true that she does provide some highly-entertaining back story when he sings them live, but, you can put these songs to the acid test: stick them on your iPod (or iPhone or iWhatever), head down to your local Starbucks.  Listen to these songs without any explanation or introduction, and you can still get the full impact of each and every lyric – completely on its own.  

As vocalist or lyricist, Lorraine is a natural storyteller: she knows how to make a story more three-dimensional, and therefore more inherently believable, by spicing it up with just the right ingredient of opposition: the tale of the “Girl with the Lazy Eye” is leavened by the small but telling factoid that said girl once had a close (non-imaginary) friend who’s now back in Paraguay.  “Scrabble” is just the opposite, a novelty rag about a board game that catches us and gradually reveals itself as a rather profound song about … surprise … a relationship.   “Perugia” uses a familiar German melody to tell us something about her English father that she learned while visiting Italy; the details are everything, but, at the same time, they’re nothing – it could be anybody’s story about trying to connect with a fading loved one.  On the surface “I Always Had a Thing For You,” is a song about someone trying to express affection (at the very least) for someone else, but it’s not the complements that are important, rather, it’s the feeling underneath.   Note that in the song, Ms. Feather spends more time telling the intended recipient that she’s trying to tell him something than she does actually telling him anything; ultimately it’s more about the trying than the telling. 

When you step back and ponder Ages from a distance, it seems like a fairly ambitious undertaking: an album that takes you through the stages of life, from childhood to middle age, told entirely in original songs.  Yet, when you’re actually listening to the record, none of this remotely matters – you get caught up in the stories themselves.  This is an album where the trees are more important than the forest, and the parts more so than the sum – an album of telling, intimate details – and you put the whole picture together in your head without even thinking about it.  “Old At Eighteen,” is at first hearing, not a linear narrative at all, but an assemblage of details that add up into a moving story – just as Cole Porter perfected the “list” song, Feather is going for a collage approach to lyric writing. 

As serious as that sounds, one of the main reasons I keep listening to the album, and Lorraine’s work in general, is the way she communicates humor in music.  “I Forgot to Have Children” takes a very serious subject and extracts a lot of laughs from it (I especially like the rhyme of “living trust” and “cracker crust”), and still, when it’s said and done, there’s a profound underside to it – she knows how to use comedy to support her message, rather than undercut it. ( I couldn’t help but think of her father’s wonderful novelty songs and the jokes in “Blow Top Blues,” “How Blue Can You Get,” and “Where Were You?” To those of us who knew him only casually, he always seemed very serious, but these songs show that he had a wicked sense of humor.) 

Dory Previn famously described the difference between songs written by professional composers for professional singers to sing and those written by singer-songwriters to sing for themselves as the difference between objective and subjective.  Increasingly, Lorraine, (like her friend, Dave Frishberg, in songs like “Do You Miss New York?”) has arrived at the perfect midpoint between the subjective and the objective: “The Girl With The Lazy Eye,” she tells us (I sneaked a peak at her annotations), is partly about Ms. Feather herself, and yet for a few minutes, I got so caught up in it that I started thinking it was about me.  Obviously, so I was never a girl (not even metaphorically), and my eyes (as a child or now) were, if anything, over-stimulated rather than lazy, yet the details in this minor key waltz resonate so honestly and so accurately, that Ms. Feather has come up with what might be considered mass-autobiography.  “A Lot to Remember” (school girl studying principles of grammar… and other rules), “Old at 18/Dog Bowl” (young woman running off to auditions, starting a career), and “Two Desperate Women in Their Late 30s” (mid-life approaches) are all songs from ages in the life of a woman who is Lorraine Feather, but, at the same time, is all of us.  More than any other contemporary singer or songwriter, Lorraine Feather has captured the heart and soul of the collective “I.”   

Will Friedwald (writer for such newspapers as The New York Times, The Village Voice, Newsday, The New York Observer, and The New York Sun. His Sinatra bio was awarded the 1996 ASCAP Deems Taylor Award for Excellence in Music Criticism)

Track Listing:

1. A Lot to Remember (Eddie Arkin) 3:17

2. Peculiar Universe (Béla Fleck) 5:18

3. I Forgot to Have Children 4:33

4. Old at 18/Dog Bowl (Eddie Arkin) 5:48

5. Perugia 3:50

6. Things I Learned in High School 4:15

7. Two Desperate Women in Their Late 30s (Russell Ferrante) 6:53

8. The Girl with the Lazy Eye (Russell Ferrante) 7:01

9. How Did We End Up Here? (Eddie Arkin) 4:41

10. Scrabble 2:40

11. I Always Had a Thing for You 4:18


Lorraine Feather: vocals

Russell Ferrante: piano (2, 4, 5, 7, 8, 9)

Shelly Berg: piano (3, 6, 11)

Dick Hyman: piano (10)

Michael Valerio: bass (1, 2, 3, 4, 6, 7, 9, 11)

Grant Geissman: guitar (1, 3, 6, 7, 11)

Eddie Arkin: rhythm guitar (1)

Bela Fleck: banjo (2)

Michael Shapiro: drums (2, 4, 7, 9), percussion (2, 4, 6, 7, 9)

Gregg Field: drums (1, 3, 6, 11)

Tony Morales: dog bowl and additional percussion (4), trash can (7)

Warren Luening: trumpet (1, 2, 4)

Bob Leatherbarrow: vibes (9)

Brandenton, FL; Entourage Studios, North Hollywood, CA; Firehouse Studios, Pasadena, CA; Visual Rhythm, Alhambra, CA

Produced by Lorraine Feather, Geoff Gillette and Carlos Del Rosario

Mastering: Bernie Grundman

Mixing: Carlos Del Rosario Album Design: Sarah Bolles
Photography: Mikel Healey


It is immediately evident listening to the work of lyricist-vocalist Lorraine Feather that she is a gracious, respectful lover of words. As a brilliant writer and performer, she revels in the power, dynamic intricacies, kooky parallels, and yin-yangs of words and funhouse-mirror entendres. And when she adds to that love a sensitive vocal style that is smart, slick, and swinging, the result is an extraordinary word-song feast. All of these qualities are evident in her terrific CD, Ages.
As she did in her prior release, Language (Jazzed Media, 2008), Feather launches into selections all seemingly connected. Here, it is an array of life passages. This is thoughtful but not overbearing stuff. Feather’s unique approach as vocalist to her own lyric (and to melody) seems simultaneously reverential, child-play confident, and wickedly intelligent.
From the swinging entry cut (“A Lot to Remember”) throughout, Feather once again solidifies her role as a supreme mistress of making wordplay sweetly sting, swing, and connect emotionally. Her vocal chops—especially her dynamic nuance and sing-speak—are absolutely divine, as in “Peculiar Universe,” the wistfully beautiful “Perugia,” and ditzy-humorous “I Forgot to Have Children.” At times it seems Feather reaches out with her delicate fingers, sometimes share-speaking across a café table (“Two Desperate Women in Their Late Thirties”), sometimes ragtime frantic (“Scrabble”). There’s connection galore throughout.
While Ages is not the first-round knockout punch of Feather’s prior release, Language, it certainly is an outstanding and special CD. Feather and crew make the most of the intriguing platforms provided. Superbly supported by some of Los Angeles’s best musicians, including Shelly Berg and Russell Ferrante on piano, Warren Luening on trumpet, Michael Valerio on bass, and Grant Geissman on guitar, with guest appearances by pianist Dick Hyman and banjoist Bela Fleck, the entire ensemble generates abundant energy and taste. Composers Berg, Hyman, and Eddie Arkin offer strong melodic content the equal of Feather’s superb lyrics. However, Agesis primarily a showcase for lyric and line and a truly marvelous singer’s unique attachment to them (the triple-meter throwback melody of “Girl with the Lazy Eye” and the moving “I Always Had a Thing for You”). Ages is exquisite, impressive music. It is marvelous listening offered up by a brainy gold-standard bearer of lyric who happens to be an incredibly talented vocal artist. This Feather is a heavyweight at both. Ages is golden.

Nicholas F. Mondello (AllAboutJazz)