KNKX is proud to share the latest album from California-based singer Maria Schafer. No Broken Hearts is her second release (not including last year's holiday duets EP, Christmas in the City), and a more intimate view of Schafer's love of classic jazz and her impressive vocal skills. Abe Beeson spoke with her and guitarist Shane Savala recently about their continuing collaborations.
Two things struck me upon meeting Schafer and Savala at the KNKX studios on a trip through Seattle late last summer. First, these are two very hip young musicians with a great knowledge of the jazz tradition and a drive to put their own stamp on standards and share their own songs in that vein. Second, Schafer and Savala have a natural, easy-going partnership that results in the kind of musical interplay that you hear from lifelong friends.
We talked about a common love of matching singers with guitarists, especially the albums Joe Pass made in the 70s and 80s with Sarah Vaughan, Carmen McRae and especially Ella Fitzgerald. On No Broken Hearts, and it's predecessor To Know Love, Savala's guitar work trades off the explosive technical playing of Pass for a conversational relationship executed perfectly. The sound leans toward folk and country styles, but swings easily and sets a pleasant bossa nova beat.
About her previous years performing with the current Glenn Miller Orchestra, Schafer says she received an amazing jazz education touring the world with them. However, she also learned that performing in smaller groups is much more satisfying. She also occaisionally splits the difference backed by a hard-swinging little big band, as well.
The title song and three others on No Broken Hearts are original compositions, set in singer-songwriter mode. Schafer and Savala told me that as much as they revere jazz classics, the boundaries of genre are of no concern to them. Good music is just that, and fans of great jazz can't deny the beauty and skill exhibited on tunes closer to Joni Mitchell's songbook than that of Cole Porter or the Gershwins.
Indeed, Schafer takes on Mitchell's wonderful song "Both Sides Now" on this new album. Hers is a different voice than Mitchell, but hearing Schafer sing this beautiful song-poem makes me think Joni would covet this young singer's incredible gift.
Savala and his sympathetic trio guide Schafer gracefully through mostly beautiful ballads on No Broken Hearts, including smart arrangements of often uptempo standards like their wonderful performance of "Jitterbug Waltz." Fresh versions of chestnuts "Love for Sale" and "The Lady is a Tramp" clip along at a comfortable mid-tempo swing, but they are the exceptions.
The buzz is starting to build on this incredible talent, joining LA-area neighbors Sara Gazarek, Margo Rey and Tierney Sutton in building a hub for great jazz singers on the West Coast. KNKX is delighted to share a fresh, slightly funky (think Ahmad Jamal's take on "Poinciana") version of the Cole Porter classic "Love For Sale" from Schafer's latest album. We also look forward to her return to the Northwest as soon as possible.