Review – “Torch” by Brenda Layne

Singer Brenda Layne has a new album out. Actually it is an EP and it is called Torch, and if you like smoky, lounge type vocal jazz, then you may want to pay attention to this project.

In addition to her vocal prowess, Layne also plays guitar, synth, and mountain dulcimer.

Layne is usually seen performing in Hawaii – but the sound is quite different. She regularly performs with the rock outfit, Ordinary Magic. If you have the chance to see the band perform, you will immediately appreciate her versatility.

The ability to seamlessly pivot from that indie-rock sound to jazz is quite impressive.

Torch is an album where Layne focuses on the Great American Songbook style. These songs lend themselves well to the genre, and we will take a look (and listen) at the six song set.

Review – Torch by Brenda Layne

The album opens with Kindred Spirits. You immediately feel that bass, and you will feel like you are relaxing in a small Supper Club. Layne takes command of the song from the outset, and in addition to the vocals, the piano playing is on point.

Be sure to grab your favorite wine as you listen to this track.

Up next is Breakthrough to the Temperate Zone. You cannot really go wrong with this track. Even though I know this is an original song, I feel that this can be in regular rotation on a Rat Pack music station.

In Lucky Charm, the sassiness is in full effect as Layne explores the full spectrum here. The song starts out slow, then it picks up the pace. Once you are tapping your foot to the uptempo beat, she then throws the listener a curveball. You then get a jazzy breakdown to complete the feeling. All of this in a two-and-a-half minute song.

Well played.

If it was up to me, Solo Act would be the first single off the album. It has everything you would want in a jazz track: A great piano intro, stellar understated vocals, a smooth guitar solo, and a strong bass holding down the bottom.

Stone Alone is next, and there’s something magical about the simplicity of a vocal with a piano playing the background. This is what we get at the start of the song. The full instrumentation comes in about a third of the way through, and Layne expertly guides us through the ebbs and flows of the song. This is probably the best song on the album.

The set concludes with Stormy Weather. Layne offers her take on the classic song. It was written in 1933, and like all great songs, it works in any decade. I am struck by the guitar, as it is out front along with the vocals. Many of the recordings of the song  were done 50 or more years ago, so it is nice to have a “current version”. This is a great way to close the album.

I feel that you can never have enough jazz standards, and the songs on Torch will fit right along with tunes from Martin, Sinatra, Horne, and Holiday.

Check it out and add it to your playlist.

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