Moon of Manakoora review


Kevin Jones - 2MBS Fine Music Magazine

It’s been a pleasure over the past years to review albums by Sydney-based vocalist-pianist Janet Seidel, not only because of the stylish warmth of her singing but also her knack of finding numbers which have been too long overlooked. This set is no exception but there is another twist. The title of the album gives the impression that it is devoted to Hawaiian-style music. And although guitarist Chuck Morgan’s exemplary artistry on the ukulele conjures up the mood of the South Seas, it blends perfectly with the jazz rhythms of Seidel, her brother David on bass, drummer Billy Ross and, on two tracks, percussionist Laurie Bennett. For too long Morgan has been one of he unsung heroes of the jazz guitar and here he stamps his authority on the ukulele, showing that in the right hands it’s a legitimate jazz vehicle. Listen to Morgan’s intro leading into his delightful duet with Seidel on Delicado, composer-arranger Percy Faith’s big hit from the 1950s. I’ve never heard it sung before and the only jazz version I can recall was by Stan Kenton’s orchestra featuring guitarist Laurindo Almeida. This is much more enjoyable. Seidel’s choice of songs cuts across the years as she also revives such chestnuts as April In Portugal, a big hit for Louis Armstrong in the 1940s, the lovely title track, a haunting Tres Palabras and the old favourite Linger Awhile. There’s plenty of variety here from tastefully sung atmospheric ballads to medium tempo swingers. No wonder this album topped the Japanese vocal jazz charts in 2005. – KJ

CD REVIEW - 'Moon of Manakoora'
Janet Seidel has released two new albums almost simultaneously, the other being Delovely, a live recording from her Cole Porter show from Sydney's Woodfire Cabaret. This is the better of the two, with Seidel's astute use of her petite voice generally being better served by the recording studio than the stage. Close to the microphone and singing softly, she conveys an in-your-ear intimacy that is both worldly and cutely girlish.

This suits the gently swaying Hawaiian mood at work here, as it does the stripped-down accompaniment which features Chuck Morgan's ukulele on all tracks. His guitar, Seidel's piano, her brother David's bass and the drums and percussion of Billy Ross or Laurie Bennett maintain efficient economy to let the deftly played little instrument take the spotlight, notably on the beautifully arranged and elegantly sorrowful Tres Palabras. Also standing out is the title track, with its understated gem of an electric guitar solo, and Seidel insinuating Frank Loesser's lyric against a backdrop inviting one to don a very loud shirt and quaff a few cool glasses of mai tai.

CD REVIEW - 'Moon of Manakoora'
Richard Mohr from Readings

Janet has been her usual productive self of late, blessing us with both Delovely, her Cole Porter album, and this gem, a dreamy collection of tropically themed swing and show tunes. Janet's in even more sultry and breathy form than usual, and guitarist Chuck Morgan mainly plays ukulele, to magical effect. Irresistible.

CD REVIEW - 'Moon of Manakoora'
Bruce Crowther - Jazz Journal International

Hold on to your hats, but Moon Of Manakoora includes the hitherto non-jazz sound of a ukulele. During a 2004 visit to Japan, Janet was accompanied at a concert by David and Chuck. The guitarist had that day bought a ukulele and the audience not only spotted the instrument, but turned out to be made up in large part of ukulele admirers. They demanded that he play his new instrument and rather than cause an international incident, he did so. They gave him a standing ovation and it's not hard to see why. At this subsequent recording session he was persuaded to feature the instrument again and his skill is startling. At heart, though, he is a jazz player and it shows, so doubters can be reassured. Ably abetted by David's bass and percussionists Billy Ross on some tracks and Laurie Bennett on others, Chuck helps provide Janet with an exhilarating backing for some fine vocals on an attractive selection of songs that include 'When Lights Are Low', 'Twilight Time', 'Delicado', 'Don't Be That Way', 'Deep Purple', 'April In Portugal' and, of course, the title song of the album.

Throughout all of these CDs, Janet is backed by instrumentalists who collectively and individually vividly demonstrate the great jazz strengths that lie in Australia. Increasingly in recent years, Janet has played outside Australia and the Far East; hence her audience in the UK and the USA is growing just as is deserved by a singer with her talent. Recent tours of Europe have helped change that, and listening to these or any other of the excellent CDs she has made can only enhance Janet's reputation.


NOSTALGIA MARCH 2006                                                  PHILLIP SAMETZ


Janet Seidel and combo



Guitarists who can double on banjo are often reluctant to admit it in case they are actually asked to play the damn thing. That goes double if you mention the word “ukulele.” But just listen to the hotter white dance bands of the 1920s – Roger Wolfe Kahn, Jean Goldkette and so on – and you’ll find the uke strumming away sweet and hot under the vocals. It was the primary social instrument of the young middle-class during that roaring decade, as the piano had been in the 1890s and as the guitar would be from the 1950s. Its return to the world of the jazz ensemble is long overdue.

So it is actually timely and indeed beautiful that Chuck Morgan, the erstwhile guitarist in Janet Seidel’s trio, should argue the case for the uke on Ms Seidel’s newest album, The Moon of Manakoora. Morgan is a superb artist and brings his considerable skill and subtly to this neglected instrument, drawing from it the gentle, sweet, syncopated colour it can display in the hands of a sensitive musician. This is a song collection for long summer nights, for Pims and lemonade, the spray of Aerogard and the sizzle of the barbeque. So for Janet’s re-conception of Twilight Time, for example, shorn of its bright 50s apparel and slipping into something more comfortable, Morgan’s uke is made to measure.

In fact it’s tempting to regard this as Janet’s finest album for some time. On almost all the tracks here, she is at her most relaxed and swinging, while the settings for each number are felicitously tropical. Till There Was You, a kind of reduction sauce of the celebrated Peggy Lee version, is effortlessly relaxed, as is the opening track, the Benny Carter classic When Lights Are Low. Delicado apart – which sounds somewhat forced and unlikely in such company - everything comes together so well that it seems surprising the ukulele has been absent from small group swing for so long: let’s hope Chuck Morgan features it permanently in the Seidel ensemble. I’m only sorry that the entertaining story of how this CD came into being is told only in the press release that comes with the recording, not in the disc notes themselves.