Arnie Lichten, Host of "the blend" on NPR
"Ryan is a versatile vocalist and works the material in that chic space where the frontiers of jazz, theater, and cabaret converge."
John McDonough, Downbeat Magazine
Review by Scott Yanow,
jazz journalist/historian and author of 11 books including, "The Jazz Singers"
Monika Ryan is a highly appealing singer with a strong voice, a flexible style, and sensitivity to the lyrics that she interprets. A professional from the age of 15, she was a fixture in New York clubs by the time she was 18. Since 2000 she has recorded a series of fine recordings as a leader. 2016 found her particularly busy, recording several CDs including Merry, Sketches and Fly.
Windmills is her tribute to the lyrics of Alan and Marilyn Bergman, a pair of award-winning lyricists who have written words to many high-quality songs, quite a few of which have been used in the movies. The singer is joined by a top-notch septet that includes keyboardist Nick Rolfe, guitarist David O’Rourke, bassist Rene Hart, drummer Alvester Garnett and occasionally trumpeter Brad Goode, trombonist Clark Gayton and Keith Loftis on tenor and soprano.
The program begins with an inventive version of “The Windmills Of Your Mind” that starts off very slow with Ms. Ryan’s haunting vocal and O’Rourke’s acoustic guitar. It eventually becomes medium-tempo and is a bit reminiscent of the type of CTI record recorded by George Benson and Hubert Laws. “Cinnamon and Clove” displays the beauty, range and power of Monika Ryan’s voice. She sings melodically on “The Summer Knows,” putting a lot of feeling into this version which has some prominent electric piano from Rolfe. “I Have The Feeling I’ve Been Here Before,” a catchy and funky Roger Kellaway piece, has some excellent improvising over the closing vamp.
The momentum does not slow down during the second half of the set. Included are the medium-tempo John Williams ballad “Moonlight,” a duet version of “What Are You Doing The Rest Of Your Life?” which co-stars Rolfe, and a surprisingly joyful and exuberant rendition of “So Many Stars” which has some fine muted trumpet by Goode. “Where Do You Start?,” a sad song about divorce, is given a heartfelt treatment. Windows closes with a spirited version of Michel Legrand’s waltz “His Eyes, Her Eyes” and Dave Grusin’s romantic “Love Like Ours.”
Throughout Windmills, Monika Ryan gives each word the right amount of feeling, she always swings and she improvises tastefully. Fans of high-quality jazz-inspired singers and the lyrics of Alan and Marilyn Bergman will certainly enjoy this recording.