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Out of a Dream, Laura Stilwell
—ANNE CARLINI—EXCLUSIVE MAGAZINE—CD REVIEWS
For those not in the know, jazz vocalist Laura Stilwell captivates audiences with her vibrant energy, and soulful storytelling. From her haunting clarity in each phrase, to the smile you can feel through her voice, her commanding stage presence in dance is equally matched by a powerful authenticity and love for singing.
In New York City, Laura performed and recorded with Tommy James, Musical Director, arranger and pianist with the Duke Ellington Orchestra and she has also performed and recorded with virtuoso guitarist and Grammy winner, Diego Garcia, El Twanguero.
Laura has performed at notable NYC jazz clubs, Cleopatra’s Needle, St. Mark’s Church in the Bowery, Harai Mong, and the Ella Lounge. Portland jazz clubs, Wilf’s Restaurant & Bar, Camellia Lounge, Jo Bar, and Vie De Boheme, Tokyo jazz clubs, the Black & White Lounge, the Bottom Line, and the Nidaba Theatre in Milan.
Indeed, Laura recently performed with world renowned Bossa Nova guitarist, Luiz Claudio Sousa, and Milton Nascimento’s bass player, Mauricio Biazzi at the Associacao Zona Franca in Sao Paulo, Brazil.
Laura has been featured in several musical theater productions. She performed the role of Abuela Claudia in the Stumptown Stages production of In The Heights with NYC director/choreographer, David Marquez and in February, 2018, Laura was featured in a tribute to Motown with stars from The Platters, The Coasters, and The Temptations at the Knight Concert Hall in Miami.
Thusly, and having performed at so many venues, alongside so many people, she was long overdue to record her own album, Out Of A Dream (due out March 1st, 2022).
*Out Of A Dream was the happy result of all that time spent learning her craft, a showcase that will delight listeners who enjoy hearing a superior singer in prime form.
1. Day In, Day Out
2. Out Of Nowhere
3. If I Should Lose You
4. Inutil Paisagem (If You Never Come to Me)
5. Don’t Be That Way
6. If You Could See Me Now
7. You Stepped out of a Dream
8. A Time for Love
Opening on the vibrancy of Day In, Day Out and the smooth dancefloor, subtlety Brazilian twirl of Out Of Nowhere, those are seamlessly followed by the dulcet, breathy If I Should Lose You, and then comes the mid-tempo balladry of her simply divine, if not dramatic rendition of Antonio Carlos Jobim’s Inutil Paisagem (If You Never Come to Me).
Up next is the gentle finger-snapping, foot-tapping melodies of the Benny Goodman hit Don’t Be That Way which is itself backed by the smokey yearn of Tadd Dameron’s If You Could See Me Now, the album rounding out on the upbeat and perky, quietly samba-imbed rhythms of You Stepped out of a Dream, coming to a close on the heartfelt gossamer stillness of A Time for Love.
Out Of A Dream features Laura Stilwell accompanied by a tasteful, complementary, and swinging rhythm section comprised of pianist Tommy James, either Perry Thoorsell or Dennis Calazza on bass, and drummer Ron Steen with Dave Evans playing tenor or clarinet on three of the selections.
*In conclusion, the release of Out Of A Dream shows that Laura Stilwell is a jazz and ballad singer who demands one’s attention and deserves to be widely heard and enjoyed.
—Anne Carlini – Exclusive Magazine – CD Reviews
Out of a Dream, Laura Stilwell, Self Produced
—RON WEINSTOCK—JAZZ & BLUES REPORT
This album is a delightful, if perhaps short (8 songs/ 35 minutes) debut for singer Laura Stilwell. Stilwell has contributed as an organizer of musical events, a jazz choreographer, and producer of jazz workshops, emerges here as a first-rate jazz vocalist on a collection of jazz standards. Stillwell is accompanied by a marvelous, supportive rhythm section of pianist and arranger Tommy James, either Perry Thoorsell or Dennis Calazza on bass, and drummer Ron Steen. Dave Evans adds clarinet or tenor sax to three songs.
Stillwell sings so tastefully with a lovely voice, assured pitch and phrasing, and a keen sense of dynamics. She can be bright and sassy with a lyric as on the spirited rendition of “Day In, Day Out” and delightfully sing “Out of Nowhere,” which is given a light Brazilian
setting. Initially accompanied by bassist Thoorsell,
Stillwell captivates with a dreamy, evocative vocal on “If I Should Lose You.” There is a sterling bass solo, along with James’ delicate piano and Steen’s use of
brushes on this standout track. There is a similar restrained feel for Jobim’s “Inutil Paisagem (If You Never Come To Me).”
Evans’ clarinet is featured on the relaxed rendition of the Benny Goodman classic “Don’t Be That Way,” which displays her flawless diction and phrasing. On Tadd Dameron’s “If You Could See Me Now,” Stilwell’s heartfelt vocal is complemented by Evans’ tenor sax that evokes the ballad playing of Ben Webster and James’ splendid piano with a delicate, deft touch. After
the melancholic ballad feel of the Dameron classic, a samba feel enlivens “You Stepped Out of a Dream,” with more wonderful tenor sax and Stilwell catting towards the track’s close. The tender romanticism of her interpretation of “A Time For Love” superbly closes
this recording. Laura Stilwell’s debut is an exquisite jazz vocal recording, and her talent is stunning.
-Ron Weinstock—Jazz & Blues Report
Stilwell’s New Record is a Positive Addition to 2022’s Field of New Covers Sets
—PHIL’S PICKS BLOG
Jazz singer Laura Stilwell released her new record this week. The record, a covers compilation titled Out of a Dream, was released independently Tuesday. The eight-song record will appeal to a wide range of audiences, as it lifts from a variety of acts. That is proven right from the outset of the 34-minute record in the form of Stilwell’s cover of ‘Day In, Day Out.’ This performance will be discussed shortly. Stilwell’s take of ‘Don’t Be That Way’ is another notable addition to the record and will be examined a little later. ‘A Time For Love,’ the album’s closer, is yet another notable addition to the collection and will also be examined later.
Each song noted here is important in its own way to the whole of the record. When they are considered along with the rest of the record’s entries, the whole makes the set another covers collection that is worth hearing at least once.
You Stepped Out Of A Dream is an enjoyable new addition to this year’s field of new covers collection. Even being a covers set, it is a presentation that most jazz fans will find worth hearing at least once. The record’s opener, a cover of ‘Day In, Day Out’ is just one way in which this is proven. Originally composed jointly by Johnny Mercer and Rube Bloom in 1939, the song has gone on to become a standard in the American songbook. It has been recorded by the likes of Frank Sinatra, Lena Horne, and Mel Torme just to name a few notable singers. Even the likes of Bing Crosby, Artie Shaw, and Tony Bennett have recorded the song, showing even more, its reach. Stilwell gives the song its own interesting identity, opting for the intimacy of a quartet instead of, say, the big band style approach taken by Artie Shaw and his orchestra and Johnny Mathis and his fellow musicians, as well as so many other performers and acts. The simplicity of Stilwell’s vocals alongside the performance of Tommy James on piano, and Perry Thoorsell on bass gives the song the familiar big band swing that so many other acts have used for the song. The thing is that the group does so within its own confines of its instrumentation. James’ runs make for great solo moments while Thoorsell and drummer Ron Steen expertly compliment his work. The energy that the group exudes makes this rendition just as much kick as any big band rendition of the song past and present while still staying as true as possible to its source material. It is just one of the songs that makes the record worth hearing. The collective’s update of ‘Don’t Be That Way’ is just as worth examining.
Originally jointly composed by Benny Goodman, Mitchell Parish, and Edgar Sampson in 1938, the song is an upbeat composition that would have easily gotten audiences on the dance floor with its blend of horns and woodwinds. The group’s big band composition is toned down by Stilwell and her fellow performers here while still staying mostly true to its source material. Instead of going the full nines here, Stilwell and company opt once again for a more intimate approach, with Stilwell leading the way. The richness and warmth of Goodman’s clarinet line, performed here by Dave Evans gives the arrangement a certain heart that itself still harkens back to some of Goodman’s more intimate compositions. It is like opening a time capsule from that era and hearing the music playing from so many ages ago. James’ work on the piano and that of bassist Dennis Caiazza and Steen offer just the right amount of accent to the intimate arrangement. The whole makes the arrangement an interesting new take on yet another work that is part of the American songbook. Additionally, it is just one more way in which the record proves itself worth hearing at least once. The group’s take on ‘A Time For Love’ is yet another example of what makes the collection engaging and entertaining.
Originally composed by Johnny Mandel and Paul Francis Webster in 1966 for the movie, An American Dream, the song has been re-imagined by a wide range of acts, such as Matt Monro, Stan Getz, and Bill Evans just to name a few notable performers. Even Tony Bennett has crafted his own take on the classic composition. The rendition that Stilwell and company present in this record is closely akin to those of Evans and Bennett, what with its gentle, flowing piano line and even more subtle rhythm section alongside Stilwell’s warm vocal timbre. The whole makes this song a perfect piece for any couple’s most romantic moments and just as enjoyable as any other more well-known jazz artist’s take on the song. When it is considered along with the other songs examined here and with the rest of the record’s entries, the whole makes the compilation in whole fully engaging and entertaining.
Out Of A Dream is a successful new offering from jazz singer Laura Stilwell. The set proves itself interesting through each one of its featured covers. The songs examined here do their own part to support the noted statement. When they are considered along with the rest of the record’s works, the whole makes the record overall a positive addition to this year’s field of new covers collections.
Out Of A Dream is available now. More information on the album is available along with all of Laura Stilwell’s latest news at: https://laurastilwelljazz.net
Up Front & Center
—O’S PLACE JAZZ MAGAZINE
Laura Stilwell Veteran vocalist Laura Stilwell has a pleasant, well-articulated voice that is up front and center. While Out Of A Dream is her debut recording as a leader, she’s an experienced singer in several genres as well as an actress.
Laura Stilwell “Out of a Dream” Self-Produced
— TAKE EFFECT REVIEW
A singer with a romantic set of pipes, Laura Stilwell brings us 8 of her favorite standards, and she’s got Tommy James (piano), Perry Thoorsell (bass), Dennis Caiazza (bass), Ron Steen (drums), and Dave Evans (clarinet, saxophone) along for the occasion.
“Day In Day Out” opens the listen with warm piano and bouncy bass lines complementing Stilwell’s agile and expressive pipes in the upbeat jazz setting, and “Out Of Nowhere” follows with a very soulful, poetic quality entering the very mature climate.
Halfway through, “Inutil Paisagem (If You Never Come To Me)” flows with charming drumming and strong piano work in the more dramatic demeanor, while “Don’t Be That Way” welcomes playful clarinet to the swingin’ fun and catchy chorus.
Moving towards the end, “You Stepped Out Of A Dream” embraces Samba ideas as Stilwell’s scatting makes an impression, as does the cozy saxophone, and “A Time For Love” exits the listen with much beauty in its gentle and spirited musicianship.
Although much of her career has had Stilwell working behind the scenes, this effort puts her front and center, and showcases her timeless skills in a very heartfelt fashion.
Travels well with: Dawn Derow- My Ship: Songs From 1941; Dee Bell- Love For Sailin’ Over Seas: Then & Now
Ladies Voices… So Many Women, So Little Time… Laura Stilwell: Out of a Dream
—GEROGE W. HARRIS—JAZZ WEEKLY
Blessed with a mature and world wise husky voice, Laura Stilwell teams up with Tommy James/p, Ron Steen/dr, Perry Thoorsell-Dennis Caiazza/b and Dave Evans/cl-ts for some classy reads of standards. She flows around Steen’s brushes on a lovely “Out of Nowhere” and is nimble around Caiazza on the samba’d “You Stepped Out of A Dream”. A cozy “Don’t Be That Way” has her nostalgic with Evans licorice stick while she’s relaxed around his breathy tenor on the reclining “If You Could See Me Now”. Comfortable in her own skin.
Laura Stilwell; Out of a Dream; Self-produced; 2022; Appx. 35 minutes
—GEORGE FENDEL’S HIGH STANDARDS
How nice it is to encounter Portland singer Laura Stilwell on her debut CD. Lucky lady that she is, she had the honor of working with a polished and professional group of Northwest musicians including Tommy James, piano; Ron Steen, drums; and Dave Evans, reeds; and either Perry Thoorsell or Dennis Caiazza, bass.
—DEE DEE MCNEIL—MUSICAL MEMOIRS
“Laura Stilwell has spent much of her creative life as a jazz choreographer and a producer of jazz vocal workshops. She has finally decided to record her debut CD titled, “Out of a Dream.” Stilwell has chosen a repertoire pulled from the American Songbook and some songs from the newer collection offered by composers like Johnny Mandel and Paul Francis Webster.
Dream Projects from Divas: Out of a Dream, Laura Stilwell
—SOUND ADVICE REVIEWS—ROB LESTER, TALKIN’ BROADWAY
Out of the eight tracks on Out of a Dream, three (coincidentally?) have the word “Out” in their titles: “Out of Nowhere,” “Day In, Day Out,” and “You Stepped Out of a Dream.” But it’s the EP’s singer, Laura Stilwell, who’s stepping out of her prior role as a choreographer guiding the steps of others and following in the footsteps of classy jazz singers who came before her with this smooth set of standards.
Low, low tones resonate; in addressing some notes, she can hop-skip-jump along nimbly, break some into pieces, and subtly bend others. She seems so assured and skillful that one would be unlikely to peg this as a debut outing. Phrasing shows understanding of words and there’s a comfort level in riding the wave of a melody, holding on tightly when things are brisk.
The slower tempi allow the singer to luxuriate in the music and linger over lyrics with especially thoughtful, in-the-moment mature parsing of words that colors and highlights them so that they glow and have afterglow. Gratifyingly, such pacing doesn’t become dreary or feel energy deprived. “If You Could See Me Now” and “A Time for Love,” each close to six minutes in lavish length, sustain interest and invite immediate repeat plays. They are, for me, the two highest-scored highlights.
All goes well for Ms. Stilwell who has the enormously good fortune of having the terrific Tommy James as her pianist: a man who was part of The Duke Ellington Orchestra for a few decades, leading it for several years. His gentleness on ballads feels ruminative and conversational and he shows vigor or playfulness on the friskier pieces. Bass player Perry Thoorsell gets much spotlight in “If I Should Lose You,” getting a mid-song solo as well as full focus as accompanist for the first section. He and Dennis Caiazza alternate bass duties on the selections and Ron Steen is the understated drummer. Dave Evans guests on silky sax or clarinet on three tracks.
Out of a Dream may make Laura Stilwelll late to the party of recording, but she has obviously soaked up a lot by being around music in various ways for years. Otherwise, to be able to hit things so solidly out of the park the first time at bat would be just lucky or unlikely, like something out of a dream.
Laura Stilwell, Out of a Dream
—ROTCOD ZZA—CONTEMPORARY FUSION REVIEWS
Warm romantic jazz vocals Laura Stilwell – OUT OF A DREAM: There’s no question about it… we all need warm romantic jazz vocals to help us make it through the day… check out Laura’s fantastic vocal work and get acquainted with her sultry style…
Laura brought some fine players to support her exceptional vocal work, too… Tommy James-piano, Perry Thoorsell-bass, Dennis Caiazza-bass, Dave Evans-tenor sax and clarinet, Ron Steen-drums, and I can tell you right now, the DJ’s are gonna’ be spinning tunes like the title track, “Out Of Nowhere“… it’s truly a winner!
The closer, “A Time For Love“, demonstrates Laura’s fine vocal sensitivity, and is one of those songs you’ll find yourself coming back to again and again (and AGAIN) to listen to… excellent recording certainly makes it headphone-worthy.
You’ll feel like you’re way down in N’awlin’s as you listen to the clarinet that opens Laura’s performance of Benny Goodman’s “Don’t Be That Way“… it’s easy to picture yourself sippin’ suds in a speakeasy as you listen to this, lol!
It was the laid-back and bluesy feel of “If You Could See Me Now” that made it my choice for personal favorite of the eight exciting tunes Laura and her bandmates offer up… Dave’s sax work on this song is exquisite.
I give Laura and her players a HIGHLY RECOMMENDED rating, with an “EQ” (energy quotient) score of 4.97 for this most pleasurable jazz set. Get more information on Laura’s website.
Warm Romantic Jazz Vocals
—JONATHAN WIDRAN—THE JW VIBE
As we regale in being graced by sultry and stylish vocalist Laura Stilwell on her engaging, alternately soul-sensual and briskly swinging debut Out of a Dream, we might ponder how it is that we haven’t gotten wind of her ample charms earlier.
After all, before blessing us with her keen, intuitive and richly imaginative jazz skills, she had been enjoying a stellar career that includes performing all over the world (New York, Tokyo, Brazil, Milan), working with pianist Tommy James and guitarist Diego Garcia and Luis Claudio Sousa, appearing in a production of “In the Heights” and performing in all-star Motown Tributes. Oh, and did we mention coaching singers and dancers?
Yes, the lady’s been busy and her ability to hop genres at a whirlwind pace may have contributed to delaying the launch of her solo career focused on the one (jazz) we need her to stay with now that we’ve found her. It’s always great when an artist like her can finally focus on her truest passion, and beyond that lovely, very adaptable voice, she chooses her favorite standards rather than just the tried and true – and works with a fantastic ensemble featuring James (whose solos on tunes like “Out of Nowhere” and graceful accompaniment on the ballad “If I Should Lose You” add sparkling magic), bassists Perry Thorsell and Dennis Caiazza, drummer Ron Steen and, on a few tunes, Dave Evans on tenor sax and clarinet.
The offbeat selections, which set Stilwell’s debut apart from most veteran vocalists making their debut with standards, include Jobim’s “Initul Paisagem (If You Never Come To Me”), a sassy, whimsical spin on the Benny Goodman hit “Don’t Be That Way” and an infectious breezy samba stroll through “You Stepped Out of a Dream.”