CHERYL BARNES, Listen (Barnes & Cabasso Music)


Jonathan Widran
  Jonathan Widran


Cheryl BarnesCheryl Barnes tells us what she wants us to do with her single word album title, but her staid album cover (hands clasped, semi serious facial expression) hardly prepares us for the wild ride. Those listening to the singer’s glorious voice and surfing the wave of eclectic emotion as she dips and weaves from bluesy, swinging jazz (“Like Jazz”) to sparse eloquent ballads (“Why Did I Choose You,” “Baby’s Got Some Awful Kind of Blues”) and dazzling, colorful big band vibes (“Listen To This,” penned by her husband Phillip Cabasso) may wonder where she’s been all their lives. And the answer is: out there, performing in various settings throughout the world, which apparently didn’t give her time to hit the studio and set her unique brand of heartfelt expression and joyful whimsy to disc. She’s done shows with Quincy Jones, Wynton Marsalis, J.J. Johnson, Billy Mitchell and Cathy Segal-Garcia. Brought her 16 years of operatic training to featured solo spotlights with the Denver Symphony Orchestra, the Florida Orchestra and the Lawrence University Orchestra in Wisconsin.

Branching out from her home base in Los Angeles, Barnes has also toured South America, worked extensively as a vocal clinician and is a founding member of the Jazz Vocal Coalition. Her resume and creativity demand deeper thought for a debut than simply mining the Great American Songbook – so she starts the CD mining gold from the catalog of fellow L.A. vocalist Mark Winkler (“Like Jazz” and the playful story song “Afternoon in Harlem”) and continues with unique choices like the wistful “Come With Me,” the eloquent “I Wish You Love” (partially sung in French) and an expansive, jazzy meditation on Joni Mitchell’s “Come In From The Cold.” Among the L.A. elite helping Barnes bring the magic at last to the studio are Brandon Fields (sax), John Hammond (piano), Rickey Minor (bass) and John Beasley (orchestrations).   

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- Jonathan Widran