"The Real Deal" from Bill Barton with CODA

The centerpiece of Flippin' Out is the five-movement Filipino Suite, wherein Clamor is joined by the Pakaraguin Kulintang Ensemble, renowned Filipino ukulele master Abe Lagrimas, and her combo in various combinations. Adapted from traditional music of the Philippines and sung in Tagalog, this is a remarkable performance. The language lends itslef nicely to jazz-oriented phrasing.

And, indeed, phrasing is the key to Clamor's developing greatness as a jazz singer. She rarely resorts to scatting. Possessing a profoundly resonant contralto, her connection to singers of the past is more to Nina Simone and perhaps Billie Holiday than to the gymnastic high-wire songbirds who flew off into "scoobie-doos" at the slightest provocation.

The ensemble also takes part in the opening "My Funny Brown Pinay," Clamor's adapted lyrics -- in both English and Tagalog -- and arrangement of the Rodgers and Hart classic "My Funny Valentine." Witnessing Clamor in concert, with her elegant yet earthy stage presence, it's sobering to a gringo that, as a child, she was teased for being a "negrita" because of her flat nose, attempting fruitlessly to acquire a "nice and pointy" nose by pinching it every night before she fell asleep. She also attempted (unsuccessfully, thank goodness!) to bleach her skin using papaya soap. Pride in her ethnic heritage is central to Clamor's music presentation. Supermodel looks probably won't hurt her career, but she's by no stretch of the imagination "just another pretty face."

There are several other memorable interpretations here. You may need a cold shower after hearing her interpretation of Nina Simone's "Sugar in My Bowl." No other performance in recent memory is as overtly sexual and sensual as this one is; in fact, Clamor trumps Simone when it comes to sheer heat. Her gentler side is to the fore on the closing "Be My Love," a signature song of the late Mario Lanza, one of her mother's favourites, the arrangement based on Keith Jarret's solo interpretation.

Granted, "Candy" may be a tad too sweet and "cutesy" for some tastes, but that's one out of 12 selections. A high percentage of this recording has an emotional depth missing from much contemporary vocal jazz. Clamor is the real deal.

by Bill Barton, for CODA, JULY 24, 2008