Every now and then I have to clean out my head of music I enjoy regularly and dive into something different. Just to remind me there are other viable entertaining types of music to be heard and appreciated. I have lots to sift through but recently what caught my ear is the warm, sassy and high fidelity rich sounding Tia Brazda. This is a woman who found a difference in an already established genre — and that is talent with ingenuity.
It would be easy for me to suggest her music is nostalgic, vintage, old timey, novelty and gimmicky – but, the way this young lady projects her voice and is supported by a tight, remarkable big band – she is polishing old world music to a high sheen and not afraid to inject some modern twist with an edge. She is truly an original and her music is enthusiastic. That’s the only word I can think of to describe it. If you’re dancing feet need a shot of B12 – these tunes will and can do it. And once you’ve allowed her 40’s into your heart go back to her previous album and let her renewed 50’s sift like sand through your soul.
The first track starts with some strings and this cool kitty Tia has Amy Winehouse phrasing punctuated by some wonderful horn charts. Applied to a big band-swing rhythm her voice is more than suitable. “Shine,” is a super-optimistic foot tapping marvel of better times. This would be great music to play in a classy restaurant or cafe. While her 50’s tunes on an earlier album will require big Coca Cola glasses with straws — this collection requires a glass of cold red wine with a quarted peach in it.
Recorded with clarity, and beefed up with just enough imagination to make this old approach new again and refreshing. Tia will have your head bobbing. She’s hot with a powerful and original voice and she doesn’t sound like anyone. She imitates no one — though there are some influences she never relies on that to impress anyone. Tony Bennett did you hear this woman sing?
Tia follows with another fiery Cab Calloway type burner of a song in “Hard Luck.” I have no clue where Tia learned her musical lessons but she is like a young woman from the 40’s who stepped through a rip in the fabric of time with inspired ankle straps, shoulder pads, perfectly tailored ladies suits, full skirts, waist-cinching jackets, belted waits, big hats, wide-legged trousers, red lipstick, bright prints and a dazzling appearance. Benny Goodman, Artie Shaw and the Dorsey Brothers would have fallen in love with this lady. The male chorus sing-back is slinky, cool and upbeat. This is a fine example of why be-bop, big band and swing music was and still is a miraculous type music. How can you not like this? My ears are tuned to rock and roll and Americana but, I am enjoying this detour immeasurably.
“Just Like That,” has a female backup that is compelling with sharp trumpet notes that stab about. The beat rocks for a swing song and this is exactly what the PR stated – saucy dance numbers and I add: Josephine Baker images, Paris, New York City, and with Tia’s slippery vocals that will simply entice the ears to want to hear more. The song is written and played in a manner where it just slides along on a wave of a catchy melody.
“Old Fashioned Love,” starts with an retro sounding violin and Tia strides with confidence in her voice. It never sounds dated despite it’s vintage roots. The pace is poppy and smooth and while it may not be today’s music — this is worth hearing and seeing just for the richness of quality. The violins on this track are cleverly laid out – big band was never known for violins but here – it all works. Maybe back in that day they had to follow a certain formula to keep the starchy, conservative audience coming back. But today, it’s all about pushing the envelope and when that envelope is pushed – new joys are found.
The title track “Bandshell,” has a crisp snare drive and a Chick Webb oriented drum. Nice cornets, brass and guitar playing in the shadows. Tia is like a whirling dervish with her tantalizing vocals and she is the show. She drives the band with such professional ease and happiness. Her respect for the Golden Age of music is obvious and I know many famous musicians from that era that would have bowed to her. She has Peggy Lee sexiness, Anita O’Day suaveness, and an Andrews Sisters pulse. Lots to enjoy here and rediscover even if that was not your time. Discover why your parents or grandparents enjoyed this music so much. Then, if you are truly daring, step away from the high fidelity gloss and play Tia side by side with the vintage classic big bands. Her music and her voice will blend in seamlessly.
Never letting go of the momentum or rhythm, Tia sings “All Mixed Up,” with punch, swagger and bounce. Great lyrics, the tempo smokes and the back up vocals colorize the melody. Years ago there was a big band orchestra that tried the same thing – The Hotel Orchestra (1970) and there was also Zim Zemarel (“Walkin’ Home”) – great bands that began this type of revival. They had some success, but they didn’t have a singer like Tia Brazda.
A nice percussive track comes up next – “Waste of Time.” Spiced with female soulful vocals and a nuclear powered attack by the band. This is a show stopper with Tia singing at a feverish pace and the drums running around her like a bunch of men with a net trying to be there if she falls. She doesn’t. I think my speakers are smoking.
The next track is far more modern in spirit despite the old style performance. I suspect Tia has a little echo on her voice here. The song is rock and roll inspired and it’s all framed brilliantly in a big band presentation.
“Mr. Mystery,” has trumpet and arrangement reminiscent of the great legendary band leader Bert Kaempfert of the 60’s. Who’s Bert Kaempfert? Well, he wrote songs like “Strangers In the Night” (Frank Sinatra hit), “Dank Schoen,” (big hit for Wayne Newton in the 60’s), his “Moon Over Naples,” became “Spanish Eyes,” when words were added. Bert also had hits with: “Red Roses for a Blue Lady,” “Afrikaan Beat,” “That Happy Feeling,” “Three O’clock in the Morning” and “Happy Trumpeter.” Aside from his hits, he played a pivitol business role in the Beatles’ career and initially put The Beatles together with Tony Sheridan. He arranged “Wooden Heart,” for Elvis Presley. He helmed an orchestra that used an acoustic guitar as a lead instrument. (“Afrikaan Beat”). The man was a musical genius on the level of George Martin and now we have a young woman who’s band is playing in that very spirit, with energy and creativity.
A cool “beat” finger-snapping bohemian track came next — “Breathe Easy.” A jazzy tune with some breathy sax, tinkling piano notes, shifty drumming, with Tia’s suggestive vocals echoing Peggy Lee. This is hipsterville, but not today’s hipster mind you. This is strictly a 1950’s sanctuary with van dykes, coconut heads, totem poles and bongos. Real nice man…real cool….outta-sight…like wow…I’m diggin’ it.
The closing track is poignant, sung with beautiful timbre in her voice. Sincerity rich and pensive. Tia is magical with these songs – after all the upbeat tunes, fiery singing and powerful arrangements Tia shifts into a tender MOR gear. The guitar is 50’s in tone, the back up vocalists are softly soulful. “All For You,” is a perfect closing number.
As mentioned earlier, Tia visited with acute energy the 50’s in her previous work with a tune called “Wild Jack,” which I thought was worth posting here. Seems Ms. Brazda is comfortable in the 1940’s and is also quite the rocker in the ’50’s tradition. “Wild Jack” is wicked excellent.
Tia joins a nice select group of musicians who mine this music brilliantly: Big Bad Voodoo Daddy, Black Cat Zoot, Tape Five, the Royal Crown Revue and The Cherry Poppin’ Daddies. This is music that gets into your pores and makes those tiny hairs on your arms stand up. Maybe if we danced more we wouldn’t be so politically uptight. The problem with those politicians in Washington and throughout the world is that they don’t appreciate good music.
I have been enjoying this music more and more now, going back to some of the originals and discovering many new bands still firing up this great music — and I have Tia Brazda to thank. I neglected this music for far too long…but that has been corrected now.
There’s too many musicians to list on this album – but everyone who contributed were exceptional.
Core live band members: Chris Gale – Saxophone, William Sperandei – Trumpet, William Carn – Trombone, Marc Rogers – Bass, Mark McLean – Drums, and Miranda Mulholland – Fiddle….and Tia Brazda on lead vocals. Cue applause. All the lyrics by Tia. Music written by several musicians listed individually in the CD credits. The album had two producers: Chris Graham & Marc Rogers – specific songs are listed on the CD.
Photography: Tinted Portrait Picture: Shayne Gray // All other images picked up from internet
John Apice / No Depression / November 2015