Friday, January 13, 2017

A jazz singer's heartfelt return to familiar territory

Toronto-based singer June Garber delivered a superb - and superbly programmed - performance on Friday, January 13 as part of the South County Club's matinee concert series in Venice FL.
June Garber

It was the first area appearance in nearly two years for Garber, a vocalist whose art crosses the border between jazz and cabaret with ease. The occasional cabaret-style gesture or expression is nearly forgotten, however, when she immerses herself in the jazz feeling and is surrounded by ace instrumentalists.

Such was the case at this concert at the Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Venice. Garber was backed by saxophonist-flutist Tom Ellison's quartet, with pianist Judi Glover, ex-Duke Ellington Orchestra bassist John Lamb and drummer Bob Stone.
John Lamb, June Garber

Garber blended some jazz and Great American Songbook standards, but more often than not, offered material that hasn't been heard in a long time, or came more from the popular music repertoire.

Examples: Nina Simone's "My Baby Just Cares For Me," Blossom Dearie's "I'm Always True to You Darling, In My Fashion" and a stunning take on "Something Cool" that had every bit of emotion as June Christy's 1950s hit. 

June Garber, Tom Ellison
Garber filled this generous afternoon with an even mix of ballads and uptempo material. the slower songs held the most poignancy.

The very finest moments, to my ears, were her takes on "It was a Very Good Year," the 1970s Melissa Manchester hit "Don't Cry Out Loud," Hoagy Carmichael's "Baltimore Oriole" and "Here's To Life," a concert staple for singers Shirley Horn and Joe Williams. She also shared Leonard Cohen's "Dance Me to the End of Love" as a tribute to the Canadian songwriter and the many other music greats who died in 2016.

The band was in synch with Garber all the way, with passionate solos and tasty accents. "It Was a Very Good Year" was an interesting example. The song was written by Ervin Drake  in 1961 and made famous by Frank Sinatra. It was written from a man's perspective, but these days carries a more universal message. Garber sang it at a dramatically slow pace, with Stone keeping the rhythm flowing as he alternated between mallets and his hands on the drums - and Lamb adding subtle single note accents from time to time. Ellison enhanced the mood with his flute.

Other gems included Garber's pairing of "Bye Bye Blues" and Jon Hendricks' "Cloudburst," and her wistful interpretation of the Judy Garland hit "The Man That Got Away."
Judi Glover, John Lamb, Bob Stone, Tom Ellison



  1. A beautiful soulful voice that exudes the passion of Jazz! we are blessed to have her in Toronto Canada!
    I am a big fan!
    Marilyn White-Campbell

  2. We LOVE our dear June!!! For her gift of voice and song.... we are so blessed!!!! Happy to share her with the world!!! See you when you are back in Toronto June!!! Love you!!!

  3. June is a Canadian treasure. We love her up here.