On March 28, 2006, vocalist Janis Siegel releases A Thousand Beautiful Things. The ninth solo album from this founding member of The Manhattan Transfer combines Siegel's impressive skills with a terrific selection of modern material and a band that features some of the hottest Latino musicians currently working in New York City, including rising star Edmar Casteneda on Colombian harp and pianist/arranger Edsel Gomez. Produced by Brian Bacchus, Siegel's fourth Telarc release is a savory stew of pop, jazz and Latin influences.
Those who know Siegel only from her association with The Manhattan Transfer might well have their proverbial doors blown off by her latest Telarc release. On A Thousand Beautiful Things, the nine-time Grammy winner (and seventeen-time Grammy nominee) spotlights the work of today's top singers and songwriters, including Björk, Nellie McKay, Stevie Wonder, Suzanne Vega, Annie Lennox, Fred Hersch, Norma Winstone, Paul Simon, Raul Midon, Danilo Perez, Lizz Wright, and Sam Phillips.
"It's not quite a pop record, it's not quite a jazz record, even though there's plenty of improvisation on it," Siegel says. "As much as I love singing standards, it's not the only thing I love doing, and eventually I came to the idea of just doing some songs that I love—songs that I think are timely and relevant—in a Latin rhythmic context."
Known as one of greatest harmony singers of her generation, Siegel puts on a virtuoso display of vocal talents throughout this smart collection of twelve tracks. She transforms Björk's "Hidden Place" into something magical, while her reworking of Raul Midon's "Make It Better" has one foot firmly planted in the Latin jazz tradition and the other in more modern territory.
Siegel pulls off a daring arrangement of Stevie Wonder's "I Can't Help It," (a tune made popular by Michael Jackson on his 1979 album, Off the Wall), then tackles Suzanne Vega's sexy "Caramel" and the Annie Lennox-penned title cut, "A Thousand Beautiful Things." Her take on the Fred Hersch/Norma Winstone tune "Valentine" displays a sensitivity rarely found in pop music today.
Siegel's exquisite harmonies on her remake of Paul Simon's "Love" are constantly engaging, and her interpretations of Alice Russell's "Sweet Is The Air," Sam Phillips' "Reflecting Light" and Erin Moran's "Did You See The Moon Tonight?" sparkle with feeling and electricity. A touching, a cappella version of the Danilo Perez/Lizz Wright tune "…Till Then" is dedicated to the memory of the singer's father, Edward Siegel.
Siegel's great band is anchored by the exceptional pianist/arranger Edsel Gomez, who grooves mightily on Nellie McKay's "The Suitcase Song." An added treat here is the presence of Las Siegelitas (Silvia Ramirez, Silvia Rodriques, Silvia Maria Romero and Silvia Rosario) singing background vocals. Bassist John Benitez, drummer Steve Hass and percussionist Luisito Quintero fill out the flowing rhythmic undercurrent while solo standouts Edmar Casteneda on Columbian harp and Brian Lynch on trumpet and flugelhorn add fire to this finely-tuned unit. Special guest Marlon Saunders, who works with Siegel in Bobby McFerrin's Voicestra, delivers backup vocals on six tracks.
Siegel, a lifelong New Yorker, grew up against the vibrant backdrop of the best in Latin music and honed her skills alongside the beautiful immigrant experience that makes New York City so special. Best known for her work with The Manhattan Transfer—one of the most popular vocal ensembles in contemporary music—Siegel has also built a successful solo career, beginning with 1982's Experiment in White, continuing with 1987's GRAMMY-nominated At Home, two intimate collaborations with pianist Fred Hersch (Short Stories and Slow Hot Wind), and 1999's The Tender Trap.
Siegel signed with Telarc and released I Wish You Love (CD-83551) and Friday Night Special (CD-83566), both produced by Joel Dorn. Sketches of Broadway, Siegel's 2004 release, featured stylish readings of eleven Broadway show tunes by Harold Arlen and Johnny Mercer, Kurt Weill, Irving Berlin, Alan Jay Lerner and Frederick Loewe, Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein II, Stephen Sondheim and others.
Following the release of A Thousand Beautiful Things, Siegel will tour the United States and Europe. More information can be found online at http://www.janissiegel.com.
"'A Thousand Beautiful Things,' 'Love' and 'Make It Better' are the songs with the most pervasive statements of optimism about the world," says Siegel. "They say once again for the millionth time that love is all there is, that it is enduring and that it's the most important thing. The Annie Lennox tune in particular—and that's why I gave the title to the album—is just a really positive statement about looking at the glass as half full rather than half empty. And that every day you wake up, it's a good idea to write the list in your mind of a thousand beautiful things."
An album with a sense of discovery, A Thousand Beautiful Things is yet another essential release by the innovative and compelling Janis Siegel.