Having heard an advance CD by Jamie Shew, a singer new to me, I asked the trumpeter Bobby Shew if she is related to him. He followed his answer—No— with a question of his own, the one that musicians invariably ask about singers: “Can she sing?”
• Is she in tune?
• Doe she phrase well?
• Does she have good time?
I have listened twice to Ms. Shew’s album and watched several of her Youtube videos. She can sing.
The CD, Eyes Wide Open, finds her in the company of players from the top tier of Los Angeles musicians: Larry Koonse, guitar; Joe Bagg, piano and organ; Darek Oles (Oleszkiewicz), bass; and Jason Harnell, drums. Gary Fukushima’s liner notes trace her history— piano lessons when she was a child, advanced music degrees, marriage to bassist Roger Shew, motherhood, then the loss of her husband to cancer in 2016 when he was 42.
The repertoire includes two of her songs, several cherished standards that include a superb version of “Detour Ahead,” and assured delivery of Thelonious Monk’s “Reflections” with Jon Hendricks’ lyric. There is a rare cover of Slim Gaillard’s 1945 “Flat Foot Floogie” in which she and Koonse have a unison line that sounds enough like something Charlie Parker might have played that I had to investigate whether there’s a hidden alternate take of the 1945 Gaillard recording. There doesn’t seem to be.
Let’s watch a couple of videos. The first is of Jamie and Roger Shew together in 2011 with other members of the music faculty at Fullerton College near Los Angeles. It open with a few words from her husband and includes her performance of Antonio Carlos Jobim’s “Corcovado.” Fullerton’s Dr. Joseph Jewell, saxophonist Bruce Babad, pianist Joe Bagg and percussionist Erik Lekrone are part of the proceeding.
Now, a more recent video, evidently recorded in Jamie Shew’s kitchen, with Larry Koonse, Darek Oles, Kevin Kanner using the surface of a music stand to simulate a drum set—and a short, curious, member of the household.
Ms. Shew wrote the title song of her new album, Eyes Wide Open, to express the importance of moving on from even the most discouraging losses. She seems to have done that.