Music

Sylvia Brooks

Jazz Vocalist

Classic American Jazz Los Angeles, CA

You can tell a lot about a musician from the company she keeps. Ever since Sylvia Brooks started performing in the jazz realm, she has collaborated with some of the Los Angeles’ most expressive and accomplished players. On her simmering 2009 debut Dangerous Liaisons and 2012’s captivating follow up Restless she conjured an erotically-charged, noir-tinged realm by exposing the the deep currents of longing, desperation and heartache running through the American Songbook. Her third release doesn’t dispel the shadows with sunlight so much as switch from black and white to Technicolor as Brooks revels in the vividly detailed and consistently innovative arrangements of Kim Richmond, Otmaro Ruiz, Jeff Colella, Christian Jacob, and Quinn Johnson. From the beginning Brooks distinguished herself with her empathic ability to inhabit a song, turning classic tunes into taut and emotionally revelatory tales. In a major creative leap, she’s also telling her own stories now, contributing to three original songs that blend seamlessly with a diverse program that ranges from Cole Porter to Hank Williams to Lennon and McCartney. What unites the sleekly bespoke arrangements is Brooks’ luscious sound and inviting sensibility. Welcoming listeners into her musical world, she takes them on an exhilarating journey deep into the hidden recesses of the human heart, where love, lust and loneliness contend for primacy. It’s a trip that requires an artist with an exquisite sound and a rarified talent for drawing the best out of her musical partners, and Sylvia Brooks has made The Arrangement.

Current Radio stations playing The Arrangement

  • WEAA- Baltimore, MD
  • WPRB- Princeton, NJ
  • WWUH- West Hartford, CT
  • KBEM- Minneapolis, MN
  • KUSD- South Dakota Network
  • WBAA- Purdue, IN
  • WGVU- Grand Rapids, MI
  • WWSP- Stevens Point, WI
  • KAZI- Austin, TX
  • WHRV- Norfolk, VA
  • WJSU- Jackson, MS
  • WNCU Durham, NC
  • WPFW- Washington, DC
  • WRIR- Richmond, VI
  • WTJU- Charlottesville, VA
  • WUSF- Tampa, FL
  • WWNO- New Orleans, LA
  • CFRO- Vancouver, BC, CAN
  • HPR-2/ KIPO- Honolulu, HI
  • KCSB- Santa Barbara, CA
  • KRFC –Fort Collins, CO
  • KSDS- San Diego, CA
  • KUVO- Denver, CO
  • Jazz From Galley 41- Internet/ San Francisco, CA

The Arrangement- Reviews

Vocalist Sylvia Brooks likes to provide her music a noir patina, that smoky and dark evening tone preferred by the likes of the fictional hard men: Sam Spade, Philip Marlowe, and Jeff Markham. On her third recording, The Arrangement, this patina is given a high buff shine into something more contemporary, without losing any of the inherent sexiness of the music and its delivery. The Arrangement is a delicious double entendre on the word “arrangement,” juxtaposing the darker side of love with a play on “arrangement,” here meaning the musical arrangement of the 14 selections contained herein. Miles Davis had made much of the importance of musical arrangement on his famous 1949 Nonet sides, showcasing the arrangements by Gerry Mulligan, John Lewis, Gil Evans, and John Carisi. Brooks looks back at this music, bringing the art of arrangement forward, her arrangers retaining an emphasis on soft soundscapes and counterpoint.
The Arrangement is a project where Brooks directed her various arrangers: Otmaro Ruiz, Jeff Colella, Christian Jacob, Kim Richmond and Quinn Johnson, to accomplish two things: they had to incorporate both reeds and brass and, they could choose the musicians they thought would best complement the pieces. The results are plush and direct, smartly outfitted with soft smoothness. Brooks’ voice possesses a superior pliancy, enabling the singer to adapt to manifold musical environments. These environments include Ruiz’s humid Latin affairs, “”Perhaps,” “Midnight Sun,” (arranged by Kim Richmond with Ruiz on piano) and ”Besame Mucho;” and Jacob’s intelligent and swinging contemporary touch (“Eleanor Rigby, ”Never Let me Go”); and Quinn Johnson’s blues-swing infused pieces (“Cold Cold Heart,” “What Was I Thinking”). What all of the arrangements have in common is a svelte tautness that is as comely as it is durable. Brooks’ voice stands front and center in these expertly-crafted songs, a voice full of experience and learning, deftly prepared for any material, as is evidenced by this fine recording.
C. Michael Bailey – All About Jazz

The arrangers on the new CD by vocalist SYLVIA BROOKS, The Arrangement had a dream assignment. Brooks selected 14 songs for the disc, and she asked each of the five gents doing the charts, Otmaro Ruiz, Quinn Johnson, Jeff Colella, Kim Richmond and Christian Jacob to write the arrangements using both brass and reeds. They were free to select the musicians for the sessions from the wealth of possibilities on the Los Angeles scene.

Well this arrangement worked out extremely well. After concentrating on noirish material on her first two albums, Brooks has expanded her horizons to opt for more eclectic programming. She chose a mix of standards like “Body and Soul” “Night and Day” and “Never let Me Go”; a couple of Latin numbers, “Perhaps, Perhaps, Perhaps” and Besame Mucho;” a country tune, “Cold, Cold Heart;” one Beatles song, “Eleanor Rigby;” and three songs with her own lyrics.

Brooks is a strong stylist who took naturally to the charts written for her. She is a confident singer with a pleasing voice who has absorbed the rich treasure of influences from the pop/jazz field, and it is evident throughout the album that she has learned her lessons well. This is a solid outing that feels comfortable from the opening selection, “Perhaps, Perhaps, Perhaps,” to the last, “Angel Eyes.”

Joe Lang – JERSEY JAZZ

The queen of jazz noir changes her look and sound a bit but the cover shot still smacks of a femme fatale slinking down a hotel hallway.

Corralling the crème of LA’s jazzbo community to assist at all levels of the game, she writes a little more, digs some different sounds, but never loses sight of her laser focus as being a top jazz singer that understands her lyrics and knows how to make them new. Chops like this are practically one of a kind and are not to be missed. The reigning queen reigns on.

Chris Spector – Midwest Record