76 I CADENCE MAGAZINE I JAN FEB MAR 2014
Good stuff also comes from Anna Givens on a CD of duets with pianist Johnny O'Neal. Mr. O'Neal is one of those regional players that is really wonderful. He's been a standby in the Cleveland, Ohio area for years and had a steady gig, I think at Murphy's Place in Toledo. But this is Anna Givens' date really. She has a relaxed, unpushing delivery and is complemented by Johnny O'Neal's rolling, very modified stride accompaniment, perfect for Ms. Givens' small but convincing voice. A recording which in many ways is 50 years behind its time, it's quite delightful. Anna Givens, called Mixed Nuts and it's on Galena Street Records, #GSM3. I also should mention that on track 5 Johnny O'Neal plays organ and sings in accompaniment. It's understated and really worth listening to.
Just Last Year… Part One
Record Label: Galena St. Music
Review by Sal Serio
The latest release by singer Anna Givens was recorded live Spring 2011 at Murphy’s Place in Toledo, Ohio. Claude Black (Miles Davis, Wes Montgomery) serves as primary pianist on these jazz vocal standards with minimal accompaniment, mostly just piano and bass. Givens illuminates the material with a touch of spunk and playfulness, evident on “Honeysuckle Rose”. Some material swings more emphatically, especially with drums (“Green Dolphin Street”) provided courtesy of Jay Bergs.
When the composition calls for a melancholy, reflective attitude, Anna rises to that occasion too, with a sweet seriousness that tugs at one’s heart strings, stopping just shy of total heartbreak (“Blame It On My Youth” & “Since I Fell For You”). The Bacharach/David classic “Alfie” showcases Givens’ impressive range, from a sultry baritone to pristine soprano altitudes, giving the popular Dionne Warwick version a serious run for it’s money.
My personal highlight is “One For My Baby”, the pinnacle of all barfly last call scenarios. Ms. Givens paints the mood perfectly to the point where I swear I felt my pupils contracting in reaction to low light, there was a whiff of glass sanitizer in the air, and I swear I saw Jack Kerouac slouched in the corner.
Record Label: Galena Street Music
Review by Sal Serio
If you long for the sad, sultry torch songs that were the trademark of all the great women jazz singers of the classic era - Nina Simone, Billie Holiday, and Sarah Vaughan – than boy, have I got a CD for you. The only singer currently performing that comes anywhere close to capturing this sincere an essence of pure jazz is perhaps Norah Jones, but I’d still place all bets on Anna Givens.
SkyLark is Givens’ solo debut, highlighted by her silky and emotive crooning with only piano and occasional bass as accompaniment. Of significant note is the pianist, Claude Black, who shares history with some of the all-time jazz greats, Miles Davis, Oscar Peterson, and Wes Montgomery. The SkyLark sessions were recorded “in the moment” without any overdubs.
While Givens is perhaps best known in the Midwest as she is based out of Ohio and gigs often in Detroit, her name may also ring a bell in the Rocky Mountain region. Recently Anna had been a member of blues guitarist Eddie Turner’s band. Husband and producer David Givens, who guests on bass, was a member of the classic psychedelic era band Zephyr. Don’t expect to hear any rock or blues here though - this one is strictly for the jazz cats.
Anna Givens-Giving Great Music Back To The Jazz World
Anna Givens is a truly gifted Jazz singer from Toledo, Ohio. Music has been in and out of her life while growing up. She quite enjoyed it, but found the music business something that was not of interest to her. However, through many mutual friends in the music business, music came back into her life before she could blink. During 2004, she toured around the US with legendary Denver guitar player Eddie Turner and after that the rest was history. In 2008 she officially got in the studio to record a couple of songs and now finds herself more involved in music than ever before. Her new album "Just Last Year - Part One" showcases the cutting edge of jazz vocals and her ability to be a compelling story teller.