Coming off a recent Juno Award (Canada's version of The Grammys) for her first OKeh collection, jazz vocalist, trumpeter and songwriter Bria Skonberg will release a new OKeh/Masterworks album titled With a Twist on May 19.
Of the mood she was going after on With a Twist, Skonberg says: "The inspiration was love and adventure, and the many twists and turns and tunnels you can get into. It's a little about my time in New York, a little bit of cocktail culture. The musical inspiration was a modern-day Esquivel, Perez Prado, maybe some Spike Jones. It's just important to me to put some love and positivity out into the world right now."
With a Twist reunites Skonberg with producer Matt Pierson, whom she credits with helping her realize the album's concept. The album features 5x Grammy-winner Gil Goldstein (who arranged six of the tracks and plays keyboards and accordion), Sullivan Fortner (piano), Scott Colley (bass), Matt Wilson (drums).
Opening track, "My Baby Just Cares for Me," offers a bow to Nina Simone. "Alright, Okay, You Win" (arranged here with "Soul Bossa Nova" – a Quincy Jones tune) summons the cool of Peggy Lee. "It's Oh So Quiet" is Björk's memorable twist of a song Betty Hutton first sang in the early 1950s; Skonberg says she has loved it since hearing the Björk recording in her car as a high school student in Chilliwack, British Columbia.
Also included is "High Hat, Trumpet, and Rhythm," a hot tune by Valaida Snow, the American jazz singer and trumpeter who became a worldwide sensation in the 1920s and 1930s. Fresh takes on "Cocktails for Two" (with a hint of Spike Jones's antic style); "Whatever Lola Wants" from Damn Yankees; and "Back in Your Own Back Yard" (a 1920s-vintage favorite of singers as diverse as Al Jolson and Billie Holiday) round out the golden-age standards.
Two more recent songs – Leonard Cohen's "Dance Me to the End of Love" and an instrumental version of Ed Sheeran's "Thinking Out Loud" – show that Skonberg, for a seasoned jazz baby, has a way with the music of her time. The wistful reflection and melancholy of "Dance Me to the End of Love" offers her a chance to remember the late Cohen, a fellow Canadian.
Skonberg's three originals on With a Twist represent a little odyssey of songwriting – "Same Kind of Crazy," written in Nashville with Jeff Cohen, and "How I Know," written in Los Angeles with Sam Hollander.
About the album's final track, "Time to Go," she says simply, "I made that one up, and I wanted it on the album." Fun fact about "Time to Go": "The little lick in the intro and outro belong to a song by Dizzy Gillespie called 'Dizzy Atmosphere,'" Skonberg notes. "The sentiment of that song lines up with the theme of this album – and Dizzy would've been 100 this year!"
To date, Skonberg has performed at some 100 festivals worldwide. She is the co-founder of the New York Hot Jazz Camp and New York Hot Jazz Festival. Further accolades include her recent 2017 Juno win for Vocal Jazz Album of The Year for Bria, Best Vocal and Best Trumpet awards from Hot House Jazz Magazine (2014-15), Outstanding Jazz Artist at the New York Bistro Awards (2014), DownBeat Rising Star (2013-15), and a nominee for Jazz Journalists' Association Up and Coming Artist (2013).
1 My Baby Just Cares for Me
3 Alright, Okay, You Win
4 Cocktails for Two
5 Whatever Lola Wants
6 Dance Me to the End of Love
7 It's Oh So Quiet
8 How I Know *
9 High Hat, Trumpet, and Rhythm
10 Back in Your Own Back Yard
11 Same Kind of Crazy *
12 Thinking Out Loud
13 Time to Go *
* Original Song