Creating her new Quietly There album was a magical experience for Red Deer jazz singer Cheryl Fisher.
“There was a confluence, a synchronicity. It’s hard to believe everything came together,” recalled Fisher, whose just-released recording is already getting airplay on CKUA, CBC and U.S. radio stations.
The first case of serendipity that paved the way for the Quietly There was that song selections for the new album survived a storage locker break-in.
Fisher had left a collection of little-known standards, which had been suggested for her repertoire by various supporters, including radio DJs, behind in a U.S. locker when she moved back to Canada several years ago.
Although many other mementos were stolen from storage, the collection of songs saved for future recording was shipped back to her after the break-in. Getting them back “was kind of wonderful,” said Fisher, who eventually chose 11 favourites for the new CD.
“The second magical thing that happened,” she recalled, is that acclaimed Portland guitarist John Stowell happened to be coming to Alberta for a series of concerts last spring. She initially considered asking him to accompany her on just a guitar and voice recording.
But then things quickly fell into place for a full-orchestra session.
Most notably, American pianist/arranger John Toomey, whom Fisher had “screwed up (her) courage” to contact, agreed to come to Alberta to play with Stowell on her album. His Virginia university even covered his expenses.
Fisher also signed up other instrumentalists, including her husband, renowned woodwind artist Eric Allison, and the bass and drummer team Jeff Johnson and John Bishop.
After learning music producer Paul Johnston, of Montreal, was now living in Edmonton and could produce her album, Fisher was equally thrilled that a new recording space with a jazz bent — OCL Studio near Calgary — could accommodate the dates she requested.
“It was pretty amazing,” said the singer, that this special synchronicity continued throughout the recording process. The assembled musicians had never all played together before, yet nearly half the album is, remarkably, made up of songs recorded on the first take.
Fisher was relieved everything fell into place — “especially since I’ve never done a concept album before.”
Quietly There is made up of mellow songs from the Great American Songbook that were selected for contemplative listening. “Sometimes you want to put on an album that you can listen all the way through,” said Fisher. “You want to hear songs that match your reflective state of mind, when you feel like sitting by the fireplace with a glass of wine …”
The most famous tune that she gives the modern jazz treatment is Let There Be Love, popularized by Nat King Cole. Several others were also recorded by well-known artists (I’m in Love Again by Peggy Lee, It Amazes Me by Blossom Dearie and I Never Went Away by Cleo Laine), but these tunes largely flew under the radar with the public and never became huge hits.
Fisher described them as “undiscovered gems … Songs that had the quality to rise to the top. “
She chose the tunes for their relatable lyrics. “I could never truly deliver a song unless it means something to me,” said Fisher, who also wrote one original song, Flowers In the Sink, after dreaming about someone preparing for a party.
She’s gratified her new album is getting so much radio attention — particularly the song Let There Be Love. Her Quietly There CD was the only Alberta recording to make CKUA’s Top 30 list of all musical genres earlier this month. It’s available from Amazon, iTunes and other online music distributors.
Fisher will preview songs from the album when she performs at 8 p.m. Saturday at the Sylvan Lake restaurant Viva La Sirena (4903 Lakeshore Dr.). Reservations are recommended by calling 587-877-9453.
She will return to the same restaurant for an official CD release concert on Oct. 22. (Please call the venue for ticket information.)
Fisher will also be performing at 9 p.m. on Sept. 9 at Lolita’s Lounge in Calgary, and at The Blue Chair Cafe in Edmonton at 8 p.m. on Oct. 1. More information is available from these venues.