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Saturday, March 15, 2014

Halie Loren: A Balcony View

Halie Loren at McNeese University,
March 14, 2014

Some time ago, while searching Amazon for favorite jazz singers from long ago (Julie London, Etta James, Billie Holiday, to name a few), I came across new jazz singers.  I discovered that there were modern singers out there who were still able to perform the standards with incredible voices and a genuine feel for the sultry sounds of the brokenhearted.  Melody Gardot, Jill Barber, Madeleine Peyroux, and Halie Loren were the first names to surface.  All of them had recorded many of the same standards, all had unique voices, and they all put their own personal touch into their music.  I always thought Halie Loren's voice stood out as as the most natural and melodic out of this class.  And it just so happened that Halie (pronounced Hay-lee) Loren was the first of these singers that I had the honor of hearing in concert.

Halie Loren sways along as Mark Schneider anchors the rhythm
on bass and the talented Matt Treader tickles the ivories.
Backed by a trio of skilled jazz musicians, Loren filled the theater with such favorites as Sway, C'est Si Bon, On the Sunny Side of the Street, and All of Me.  She switches easily from lighthearted jazzy swing to sultry ballads without skipping a beat.  Mixed in with these standards were her own jazz recreations of non-jazz hits like Procal Harum's A Whiter Shade of Pale and Carole King's I Feel the Earth Move.  That last one really caught my attention, and even my wife, a Carole King fan, did not hesitate to point out that Loren's performance was better than the original.

Halie Loren's voice never missed throughout her nearly
two hour concert.
Though there were a few songs that I felt Loren was merely performing, as soon as she began to sing My Funny Valentine it was clear that she was in full possession of the music.  If I hadn't known that it was an iconic song that had been covered by the likes of Chet Baker and Frank Sinatra, I would have easily believed that it had been written by Halie Loren.

And speaking of songs by Halie Loren, she did a number of her own compositions, including a fun, sexy jazz noir piece entitled Danger in Loving You, and Woman's Way, the latter being from her 2011 album Heart First and a favorite of mine.  I was a bit disappointed that she did not perform the title song from her 2010 album After Dark.  But it was the only disappointing part of the evening.

Notice the hand drawn shoe under her signature.  One of a kind!
In order to give her trio a short break, Loren sang one song a capella.  This was a fun little blues number she called The High-Heel Blues.  Sung for the benefit of the ladies in the audience, it highlighted the trouble some women have when they are obsessed with buying high-heels, all the while knowing how painful they are to wear.  It didn't really connect with me, since as a man, I'm too smart to wear high-heels, but I could tell it was well received by women across the auditorium.  When we met Ms. Loren afterwards and asked her to sign the cover of her latest CD, my wife mentioned how much she enjoyed High-Heel Blues.  Loren took the time to draw a high-heel shoe below her autograph for my wife.  That has to be one-of-a-kind.

Simply Love is her latest CD, and it is full of great tracks.  My Funny Valentine and I Feel the Earth Move are there, along with the upbeat On the Sunny Side of the Street.  One other song I wish she would have performed is on this album: Moon River.  This is a difficult song to get right.  I've heard that Henry Mancini, the composer, stated that Audrey Hepburn was the only singer who really understood the song.  He might have added Halie Loren to that list if he were around today.  I often hear this song done as something upbeat, a little whimsical.  It should be nothing of the kind and Loren stays clear of such a mistake.

So if you haven't yet discovered the beautiful voice of Halie Loren, be sure to type her name into Spotify, or grab a CD.  We are too quick to listen to those wonderful classics and say "they don't make music like this anymore."  If you believe that, you'll change your mind once you give Halie Loren a chance.

When Loren and her crew returned to the stage for an encore, I was expecting something loud and swinging to get us on our feet for one last hurrah.  Instead, we were all moved by her choice.  It takes some moxie to attempt to sing one of Louis Armstrong's signature songs in Louisiana.  But with such a wonderful voice and sure instinct for emotional songs, Loren's What a Wonderful World was the perfect way to cap off such a wonderful night.


  1. Thanks for a great review!

    Mark Schneider, Bassist, Halie Loren Trio

    1. My pleasure, Mark. You guys were amazing.

    2. And Mark, I just realized I forgot to identify you for our readers. Mea culpa! I've corrected that on the photo of the three of you together.