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Vocalist Stephanie Nakasian’s latest CD titled Show Me The Way To Get Out Of This World released June 19 from Capri Records, was inspired while Nakasian was working with composer and jazz musician Harris Simon. Both were teachers at the College of William and Mary in Williamsburg, VA and found their collaboration is one for the musical history books. With Nakasian on vocals and Simon on the piano, the two are also joined by bassist Chris Brydge and drummer Billy Williams and together they produce 15 tracks that will be music to jazz fans ears. Nakasian and the Harris Simon Trio cover songs from Cole Porter to Duke Ellington and even Van Morrison but bring their own unique signature to each track.
The opening track titled “Lonesome Road” starts off slow with Nakasian’s sultry vocals and Simon’s wistful piano as Nakasian softly croons such lyrics as, “Look down, look down…before you travel on…look up and see your maker…look down, look down that lonesome road before you travel down.” Then, about halfway through the track, Simon’s piano play and Nakasian’s vocals speed up considerably and Brydge’s drums emerge changing the whole tempo and vibe of the track.
“So In Love,” is a cover of a Cole Porter song. Nakasian’s vocals convey an ache that only those who’ve ever known love can feel. Combined with Simon’s fluid piano work, Brydge’s light drumming and Williams’ bass in the background, this track is truly on to be played for lovers slow dancing on the dance floor. Nakasian sings such tender words as, “I’m close to you dear. The stars fill the sky, I’m so in love with you…I’m in love with a night mysterious…I’m in love with my joy delirious.” All the innermost feelings of head-over-heels ardor Nakasian conveys in this wonderful ballad.
The fifth track is titled “Nica’s Dream” and is a song from jazz pianist and composer Horace Silver. This track is an exultant one, as Nakasian’s vocals have a cheery sound accompanied by Simon’s sprightly tickling of the ivories and Williams’ faintly pounding drums. Nakasian waxes poetic about “Nica’s” lifestyle with such lyrics as, “She was always dreamin’, schemin’, reelin’, feelin’ real…A sound sweet to the ear, a warm melody that everybody could hear…She came into his life and gone were the days of sadness and strife.” About ¾ of the way through the track, Nakasian begins to scat and the instruments follow suit by exhibiting rapid notes in kind.
“Times are Getting’ Tougher Than Tough” is the album’s 10th track and one by Irish singer/songwriter Van Morrison. On this track, Nakasian’s jolly sounding vocals mask a song filled with lyrics about hard times. Simon’s piano playing is jazzy along with Williams’ ebullient drumming complement Nakasian’s happy spin on the working class person with such lines as, “Money’s gettin’ cheaper, he found himself a woman but he couldn’t keep her cuz times are gettin’ tougher than tough. Yeah, things are gettin’ rougher than rough. I work hard for my money but I keep on spendin’ the stuff.”
The 14th track titled “Zanzibar” is from Minnesota-born jazz pianist, composer and vocalist Dave Frishburg. Nakasian’s vocals now return to sensitive and brim with illusion as she goes on about a faraway paradise. Simon’s piano is gentle like the surf she describes and Brydge’s bass is temperate in the background along with Williams’ drums. Nakasian paints a crystal clear image for listeners as she sings lyrics such as, “You should know better before you start. You’re about to lose your heart on the golden sands of Zanzibar. You better beware cuz mad romance is in the air and you’re bound to feel the urge when the waves break and surge on the golden sands of Zanzibar.”
In conclusion, Show Me The Way To Get Out Of This World from Stephanie Nakasian and the Harris Simon Trio is a collection of tunes by some of the greatest jazz musicians who ever lived. Yet, these musicians bring their own distinctive characteristics and style to each track.