Sylvan Lake-based singer Cheryl Fisher performs on Saturday

Fisher explores the softer side of jazz

Soothing, reflective music that goes down fine with a glass of wine. Central Alberta’s renowned jazz vocalist Cheryl Fisher aims to record that kind of album this spring with guitarist John Stowell and his Scene trio.

Soothing, reflective music that goes down fine with a glass of wine.

Central Alberta’s renowned jazz vocalist Cheryl Fisher aims to record that kind of album this spring with guitarist John Stowell and his Scene trio.

“Concept albums aren’t what I usually do,” admitted the Sylvan Lake-based singer, who’s slated to perform a rare Central Alberta concert with her quintet on Saturday, April 4, at Fratters Speakeasy in Red Deer.

“But sometimes you just want to sit by the fireplace, have a glass of wine,” and you aren’t in the mood for music that hops between ballads and rousing dance tunes, she added. “You just want to put on an album and let it play right through,” allowing its mellow mood to merge with your own.

With the quieter, softer side of jazz in mind, Fisher has been gathering some of her own more laid-back original songs for her yet untitled album that’s expected to be recorded in May. She’s also collecting little-known tunes that were originally recorded by some of her favourite artists, including Shirley Horn and Cleo Laine.

Only the most devout jazz fans will likely recognize Peggy Lee’s I’m In Love Again or It Amazes Me, recorded by Blossom Dearie — both tunes pegged for the upcoming recording session in Calgary.

Fisher called these love ballads “hidden gems, these little golden nuggets.”

She purposely chose songs “that haven’t been overly done,” so she can put her personal stamp on them. “These are old chestnuts — beautiful, rarely heard songs from real jazz vocalists from a lot of years ago.”

The sultry-voiced singer plans to give them some modern jazz treatment, accompanied by of Portland, Ore.-based Stowell’s trio and her husband Eric Allison possibly playing the flute. While Allison is better known as a saxophonist, Fisher said he’s a wonderful flute player and that instrument might lend itself better to her soothing concept.

She’s also planning to record some original material for the album, including the song Flowers in the Sink. “I woke up with that (tune),” said Fisher, who recalls dreaming about a friend preparing for a party by putting roses into vases at the kitchen sink.

The song that evolved out of the dream tells of people being so busy with social and work functions and “trying to make everything so perfect” that their most important relationships get lost in the shuffle, said Fisher.

Her relationship with Allison isn’t in danger of being sidelined, since the couple regularly collaborate to make beautiful music together.

Allison will be part of her quintet when Fisher performs at Fratters. The rest of the group includes Jon May on drums, Sheldon Zanboer playing the piano and John Gray on the bass.

Fisher, who has won rave reviews from Washington, D.C., to the Montreal jazz festival, where she was billed as “one of the greatest female singers in the history of Canadian jazz,” performs at venues like Calgary’s Jack Singer Concert Hall, but doesn’t often get a chance to sing close to home.

Part of the reason has been the heavy demands of co-organizing, along with Allison, the annual Sylvan Lake Jazz at the Lake festival. But since the event is in hiatus for 2015, Fisher has more time for concerts like this one at smaller venues.

The singer who studied jazz vocals at the University of Miami and Paris, has toured and recorded with some of the greatest living jazz musicians, including Ira Sullivan and Roland Hanna. She has released five previous albums and has appeared in CBC’s Jazz at the Jack series.

The Edmonton-born, Victoria-raised singer considers Fratters to be one of the nicest, most intimate performance spaces in Alberta, with its retro-theatrical look and an audience that listens to performers instead of treating them as background music.

“The fact that Red Deer is able to support something like this is such a breath of fresh air. … I’m excited to take the stage.”

The Cheryl Fisher Quintet, featuring Eric Allison, will be the kickoff concert of three special events being held this year in lieu of the Sylvan Lake jazz festival. The other shows are John Stowell and his Scene trio performing a May 26 house concert in Sylvan Lake, and a Aug. 15 outdoor concert on the lakeshore with the Red Deer Symphony Orchestra. More information will be available on the festival’s website.

Tickets for Fisher’s 9 p.m. show at Fratters are $20 in advance from the venue or from www.jazzatthelake.com. For more information, please call 403-356-0033.

lmichelin@bprda.wpengine.com

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