Zoe Schwarz

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Reviews of Zoe Schwarz


26/01/2010 sebastian scotney

'............“Celebration” is also a thank you and a homage to Billie Holiday. The CD celebrates spontaneity, and beautiful sound. It has that organic feel of an album derived from the experience, the joy and the spontaneity of live performance.' Londonjazz


01/01/2010 THE JAZZ RAG by John Watson Issue 110 Spring 2010

Singer Zoe Schwarz and guitarist Rob Koral have become well known as leading lights on the blues scene in The Baddest Blues Band (Ever!), but both have a background in sophisticated jazz. On this new CD, entirely consisting of voice and guitar duets, they return to the Great American Songbook standards repertoire for most of the tracks, and it really is a gem of an album.Opening with ‘Cry Me A River’, Zoe’s voice shows warmth and great depth of feeling, but what makes it compelling is the sense of power which is also so characteristic of her work with the blues band. Other fine ballads on the disc include ‘Don’t Explain’, ‘My Funny Valentine’, and ‘The Man I Love’.Of the up-tempo tracks, ‘Let’s fall In Love’ begins with an astonishing scat section, Zoe’s voice and Koral’s guitar creating a whirl of bopping phrases, sung and played in perfect unison, It’s a splendid technical feat, and it leads effortlessly into a strongly-swinging version of the song. Koral provides a sensitive foil for his musical partner, and he’s one of the few guitarists who can deliver a convincing, swinging bassline with the thumb.As well as the Songbook standards, the duo presents two original tracks – ‘Let’s Explain’ and ‘Empty Rooms’. A thoroughly raunchy version of ‘Sitting On Top Of The World’ concludes the disc.A guest soloist – on, say, flute – would have provided more variety on some tracks, but overall it’s an album which works extremely well.


01/12/2009 Chris Parker - Vortex CD reviews

The 'celebration' referred to in the title marks the tenth album recorded by guitarist Rob Koral for 33 Records, and on it, he and partner Zoë Schwarz have concentrated on performing, in the duo format that she considers 'such a huge part of what we do, a very intimate setting that Rob and I thrive on', songs from the standard repertoire, 'the backbone of jazz we know and love'.

Over the whole recording hovers the spirit of Schwarz's greatest influence, Billie Holiday – '[discovering her] was like [finding] the missing piece of puzzle in my life; her soulful, expressive and such unique singing moved me' – not only inasmuch as Holiday's vocal timbre (as it is in Madeleine Peyroux) is reproduced in Schwarz's singing, but also because two of the album's highlights, 'Don’t Explain' and 'The Man I Love', are also immediately associated in most listeners' minds with the great American, and one of its originals, 'Let's Explain', is a reaction to her life and its various vicissitudes.

Indeed the (unsentimental) sensitivity of this song's lyrics – 'Formidable and so strong/But so much hardship pain and strife/Are we right or are we wrong/To know so much about her life?' – informs the entire album, so that even the most familiar fare ('Cry Me a River', 'My Funny Valentine', 'Boulevard of Broken Dreams') comes up fresh, Schwarz and Koral never allowing their clear respect and admiration for classic vocal jazz (Ella Fitzgerald, Sarah Vaughan, Nat King Cole, Peggy Lee and Julie London are all mentioned in Schwarz's notes) to overwhelm their own (considerable) individuality.

Koral is an unfussy but subtly skilful accompanist, and with Schwarz characteristically affecting and resourceful throughout, this is a wholly enjoyable and clearly deeply felt album from a stylish and thoughtful pairing.


10/03/2008 BBC Radio 2 Best Of Jazz Humphrey Lyttelton

Track 2. From the Album STEP UP 33JAZZ171

‘I Want A Little Sugar In My Bowl’ written by Nina Simone

“A powerful rendition ….. a glorious album” – Humphrey Lyttelton


01/01/2008 others

MORE REVIEWS ON www.zoeschwarz.info


18/08/2007 Roger Trapp

18th August 2007. Jazz & Blues - THE FIVE BEST GIGS by Roger Trapp
"The bluesy vocals of Zoë Schwarz have won a significant following in the West Country. Her combination with the guitarist Rob Koral helps place her apart from many other female vocalists. A new CD is on the way. Café Rouge, Bournemouth.”


03/03/2007 Graham Steel

Zoe Schwarz & Rob Koral performed some sultry jazz & blues with there quartet co-inciding with the eclipse of the moon! A great night full of standards and original material, featuring a soulful voice and sublime guitar playing.


31/01/2007 Chris Parter

“…Schwarz has an engaging, unaffected vocal style particularly well suited to the blues, and Koral is a neat but cogent guitarist, so their partnership is a natural one, and their gigs are immediately accessible, enjoyable affairs.”


01/08/2005 Bruce Crowther

JAZZ JOURNAL INTERNATIONAL. VOLUME 58. AUGUST 2005.reviewed by Bruce Crowther“ New to me, although this is not her first CD, Schwarz has a gritty and interesting approach to her music. Eschewing the currently popular and over-populated field of smooth jazz that is becoming increasingly non-jazz, she has a no-nonsense singing style that works well in boppish setting. The Miles in the title is Davis and the music does not so much derive from him but suggests, as it were, that he is a stylistic mentor. Ably backed by a driving quartet, from which Cameron and Nevill are also new to me, with Fletcher in his customary good form. This is a good group session rather than singer with backing and all the instrumentalists are given solo space and take good advantage of the opportunity to show their abilities. Cameron’s vocal appearances are in duets with Schwarz on A Little Tear and Blue Skies. As is increasingly common these days Schwarz presents several of her own songs (six in all, mostly in collaboration with Koral) and offers a different take on the songs from other sources. The new songs are good without being outstanding and I especially liked Dick Teague’s lyric on the opening track. Good sound, and brief notes include the lyrics to the originals. The jazzier you are the more you will warm to this and Schwarz is certainly a singer to look out for as she tours the country.”


05/05/2005 Keith Brain

LIVE REVIEW From Swindon Jazz Club - The Zoe Schwarz Quartet featuring Rob Koral 05/05/05 8.30pmVenue: The King's, SWINDON, WILTSHIRE Reviewed by: - Keith BrainThe Swindon Jazz Society presentation at the Kings this month ended a recent run dominated by female performers.Those who may have heard Zoë Schwarz on local radio airwaves with her guitarist Rob Koral prior to this Swindon debut gig will be aware of a quality act.However, you can't beat a live performance before an audience, and the Kings upstairs music room, by a fortunate quirk, can provide a rewarding experience when listening to artists who know about sound balance and acoustics. And Zoe Schwarz has a very good microphone technique which projects a strong, unstrained voice with a wonderful husky edge. Her programme included entertaining and varied originals, often with a theme of un preaching social observation - I'm Alright Jack, Give Him Up Girl, and The Waitress were typical titles.The standards were well represented, too, along with Diana Krall material: A Charmed, Charmed Life and a knockout Cry Me A River were especially memorable.Rob Koral, plus Jerome Davis on double bass and the much travelled Mark Fletcher on drums (recently associated with Chuchu Valdez in Cuba), provided a super sound background tapestry to the evening.Zoe Schwarz soon appears opposite the renowned pianist Monty Alexander at Ronnie Scott’s Club. Let's hope we can afford her in this local setting again.


29/04/2005 Barry Boyce

LIVE REVIEW From Chichester Jazz Club By Barry BoyceZoë Schwarz in April followed Zoë Rahman in March. For me, the man who books the bands for CJC, there was a sharp contrast that has nothing to do with the artists’ musical or presentational talents.As my devoted readership will recall, her visit to CJC was the sixth time I’d heard Zoë Rahman in live performance. In contrast, I booked Zoë Schwarz after listening many times to her second CD, Dancing For Miles, and then eventually going to hear her in a duo at the Jazz Café Fleur in Poole. My visit had convinced me of her voice and her ability to handle a small, noisy audience. Clearly also she and Rob Koral, guitarist and composer, had a close musical understanding in their well balanced programme, with many classic jazz standards and only a few of their own compositions – even though their own music is very important to them both. Any slight doubts about Zoë were removed by her excellent third album, Devil and Dove, in March 2005, followed by the news that she had been booked to play a week at Ronnie Scott’s in August 2005.Even so, I was surprised at just how good the whole band was at CJC. Zoë’s singing was remarkable, with an attractive, smoky tone in the lower register and a strong, soaring quality, effortlessly achieved apparently, in the upper range. Her stage presence, attributed to her 9-year old daughter’s inspiration, also impressed. The energy of her live performance matches that of ‘the other Zoë’ and makes me inclined to believe that there really is something in a name (if you can be bothered, see the review of the Zoë Rahman gig). Rob Koral lived up to his excellent reputation – ‘worth his weight in gold’ according to one review. He moving easily between unobtrusive support and totally convincing solos; his solo version of Shadow of Your Smile led the audience to call for an encore, a beautiful Moon River. On piano was Hilary Cameron who started well, if somewhat tentatively at times, and was absolutely outstanding in the second half; on record she also sings and plays flute and it would add a special quality to the band if she did so in live performance. And finally, young Nick Kacal on bass, who played with great zest and drive all evening and contributed several excellent solos.Among the numbers that particularly appealed to me were: All Right, OK, You Win; Tom Waits’s Temptation; Ellington’s Lucky So and So, and Jobim’s No More Blues. Schwarz-Koral originals included the Billie Holiday-inspired Let’s Explain and Give Him Up Girl; The Waitress; and I’m Alright Jack. It was on some of the more up-tempo numbers that I noticed a certain lack of clarity in Zoë’s diction. Not a problem in the standards - when I knew most of the words anyway - this sometimes spoilt my enjoyment of what are often clever and subtle lyrics in the originals.In summary, Zoe is outstanding, particularly considering her relatively limited experience in jazz. I will be fascinated to discover quite how far her career will take her. She certainly meets my standard ’20-mile test’ for bands – I’d travel at least that distance to hear her again! Indeed I shall try to get to Ronnie Scott’s during her week in August. This will be a test - the audiences at Ronnie’s re not famously polite and attentive as far as the ‘support bands’ are concerned – but one I feel sure she and the band will pass.


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