It’s a crying shame that a jazz vocalist who sings as divinely as Meri Slaven isn’t a household name. Sure, in Michigan, her home state, she's popular and she’s performs regularly at upscale clubs and restaurants. She’s also a key member of a hot vocal group the Metro Jazz Voices. Maybe the recent release of her new album “Get Out Of Town,” will get her the national attention she’s earned and she deserves. “Get Out Of Town” has 13 songs and she staffed the album with some top Detroit jazz musicians such as Ron English, Sean Dobbins, Paul Keller, and Scott Gwinnell. Hard to make less than a stellar album with such star power. Slaven pours her voice over well-known oldies such as “The Trouble with Me is You,” “Moonlight” and “Like a Lover”. The cuts likely to get played over and over are “A Blossom Fell,” “I Thought About You” and “True Colors” because you get to experience Slaven one on one with Gwinnell and Keller. Her voice could turn the devil into a romantic.

In their efforts to expand or at least stop the bleeding in the increasingly elusive, shrinking jazz listening audience, many artists resort to raiding the pop, rock & roll or rhythm & blues warehouses looking for recognizable, commercially viable material to transform and clever up. The results are often contrived and frequently unlistenable; and the cringe factor only increases when jazz artists purloin wares from the country & western stacks. That’s why it is so refreshing to hear an honestly crafted crossover of this timeless hillbilly torch song. Meri Slaven is no ordinary singer — with an abundance of chops and great pipes, she could easily scat, bop or funk it up like the big dogs but has the class and good sense not to. Instead, Slaven offers pure, sustained phrases wrapped in tear-stained cocktail napkins. Patsy Cline, who broke the charts and more than a few hearts with this tune, would have no problem believing the depth of feeling here. Pianist Scott Gwinnell’s subtle arrangement offers a bare minimum of reharmonization and enhancement with strings, underscoring the raw emotion of Slaven's gut-wrenching interpretation. There is no inappropriate dissonance, altered time or tongue-in-cheek jazzy condescension. The result is an urbanized, cliché—free ballad which would feel equally at home at the Blue Note, Caveau de la Huchette, or Ryman Auditorium. Reviewer: Bill Barnes
This is Cole Porter done right — swinging hard and fast. Charging out of the gate with a confident, flowing sax intro by tenor man Carl Cafagna, Slaven quickly takes command of this fearless, up-tempo arrangement by pianist Scott Gwinnell. Comparisons with the more laid-back Ella Fitzgerald version are inevitable, but Slaven acquits herself admirably with crisp phrasing and a rich vocal timbre that goes down like a belt of 20 year old single-malt scotch. It’s always a pleasure to hear a crack ensemble cook. There are no surprises, no flash innovations or grandstanding maneuvers — just a bunch of cats backing a lady who obviously knows her craft, all caught in the act of making love to a timeless classic. Reviewer: Bill Barnes

Saturday, November 7, 2009 SWEET VOICE Friday night is date night. I take my wife to dinner or to a movie. Sometimes I do both. Yesterday, driving to the Thai Bistro in Grosse Pointe, we listened to your album "Dream Dancing". The album had us in a trance. At dinner, my wife asked about you, and the rhythm section, which she really liked. I told her I heard you for the first time at Baker's Keyboard Lounge a few weeks ago, singing with the vocal jazz quartet Metro Jazz Voices. The wife said your voice is lovely, and your strength is singing love songs. On "Darn That Dream" and Sweet Dreams" you voice is satisfying as comfort food. Meri, I think the wife is trying to replace me as the family jazz critic. My wife pats her hand on her knee when she is really into a piece of music, but while your album was on, she also did a little slow dance in the car seat, which meant she loved your album. Before we reached the restaurant, she had me replay "All Night Long" twice. Of the eleven songs on the album, that's her absolute favorite. I like the entire album. Tenor saxophonist Carl Cafagna and pianist Scott Gwinnell are good in their supporting roles. They are powerful players, but they don't overpower you. This year, I've received many album my female jazz vocalists. Some were noteworthy, and others not so. "Dream Dancing" is one of the best I have experienced. I disliked the other vocalists albums because of the arrangements. They had string accompaniment, which overwhelm them. That's not the case on your album. On "Close Your Eyes" and Corcovado (Quiet Nights), for example, your voice blends nicely with the string instruments like butter melting on a stack of pancakes. The eleven songs you chose for this album fit your voice perfectly. My wife asked if I had written about "Dream Dancing" yet. I said I had not because the album is three years old. I only review current releases. She said I should post a review anyway. This is a great album no matter when it came out. Then she gave be a short lecture, saying I should use my jazz blog to help local jazz musicians, and I should encourage my readers to buy “Dream Dancing. Posted by Charles L. Latimer at 12:50 PM

BY HAZEN SCHUMACHER Singer, Meri Slaven and the instrumental backing on this album (Dream Dancing) are worthy of further listening. I like her better on the slow tracks rather than the up-tempo items. Her voice just seems better suited to tunes like "Close Your Eyes" or the two Jobim tunes "Meditation" and "Quiet Nights." (On the former she sings easily and impressively in Portuguese; at least I think it's Portuguese!) She gives these numbers a throaty, sensual treatment that's charming. The arranging (by Scott Gwinnell) and instrumental accompaniment (by Dennis Horvath on bass, Scott Kretzer on drums and Gwinnell on piano) is first-class. Carl Cafagna plays sax and flute on a few tracks and Molly Hughes plays an electronically-multiplied violin on four. (I assume she's multiplied; she's the only violin credited but you can hear a whole section.) All in all, this is a most pleasant CD with a good singer handling eleven good songs.

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