Greta Matassa
shim shim shim

by Roman St. James,

Live At Tula’s
is the latest release from jazz vocalist Greta Matassa and it’s absolutely fantastic. Recorded, as the title implies, live at Tula’s Restaurant and Nightclub on December 13, 2002, it features pianist Randy Halberstadt, bassist Clipper Anderson and drummer Gary Hobbs. This group is everything that you could want in a jazz band – hard swinging, fearless, sensitive, endlessly creative and technically brilliant. Not a single note rings false on this album, an enormous achievement for a live recording.

Matassa has been a longtime fixture in the Seattle jazz scene. She built her career in the Pacific Northwest area and has been voted ‘Best Jazz Vocalist In The Northwest’ four times by the readers of Seattle’s jazz magazine Earshot. Completely self-taught, she caught the jazz bug while very young and dropped out of high school to pursue a music career. Initially she had trouble finding jazz work and began singing in heavy metal cover bands until she blew her voice out and was forced to quit. She then began singing in wedding bands, where she made some solid jazz connections and began a career that continues to flourish to this day, with no end in sight.

Matassa’s voice most reminds me of Carmen McRae’s; not the higher-pitched McRae of the 50’s, but the smokier, more burnished McRae of the 80’s. Yet she has a great range that allows her to color her sound in a myriad of ways. The influences of Billie Holiday, Sarah Vaughan, Ella Fitzgerald and Anita O’Day are clearly evident, but that’s to be expected – no female jazz vocalist worth her salt can ever really avoid incorporating some of the contributions of these legends into their artistic expression. But what truly makes her great is her ability to move beyond these influences and create her own personal sound.

This album consists entirely of covers – The Shadow Of Your Smile, I’ve Got You Under My Skin, Save Your Love For Me (check out the magnificent bass solo!), Tenderly, etc. – but if you think you might be bored hearing one more version of Night And Day, think again. Matassa and gang have the uncanny ability to breath new life into these old chestnuts. I also need to give a big nod to producer David Keefer. Sonically speaking, this is one of the best live recordings I’ve heard in quite some time. Absolutely superb all around. I’m so used to hearing live recordings with too much bass, not enough drums or too much reverb on the vocals that I almost forgot what a live recording should sound like. It’s nice to be reminded.



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