Here’s the great news about Maggie Herron as the beautifully husky voiced Michigan bred, longtime Honolulu based singer begins unleashing her latest wonderwork Renditions on the world – she’s no longer in A Ton of Trouble. That 2018 album, her fourth set of colorful originals, earned high critical praise (including on this platform) and earned Maggie her third Nā Hōkū Hanohano Award (Hawaii’s Grammys) for Jazz Album of the Year. She recorded that one during a year where she suffered from the flu, broke her arm, experienced the natural lowering of her voice and dealt with the fear of the eruption of Kilauea only eight miles from her home.
Yet Renditions isn’t simply unique from her previous work because her life outside the studio wasn’t fraught with real world problems this time. By tackling a spirited array of crisply swinging and brightly arranged jazz standards and lilting chestnuts from Norah Jones (“Come Away With Me”) and Paul McCartney (“I Will”), Maggie gives everyone outside Hawaii glimpses into the vibe of her regular, always highly attended gigs at Lewer’s Lounge in the Halekulani Hotel, where she has held court now for seven years. A prolific writer, she takes a well-deserved break from recording original material to offer something of a “greatest hits” collection of favorite classic tunes from her vast live performance repertoire.
Beyond raw emotion and sensitive soulful vocals, chemistry and intuitive synergy are everything on a project like this, and Maggie’s ensembling here with the best of the best. Complementing her vocals with her lively piano playing, Maggie’s all-star Pacific Rim band includes her core trio of bassist Darek Oles and drummer Ray Brinker and guest appearances by Maggie’s regular Lewers lineup, bassist Dean Taba and saxophonist Rocky Holmes. A few of the top L.A. jazz cats are on hand as well, including guitarist Larry Koonse, whose sensitive, strutting lines bring a slow simmering energy to the always delightful “All of Me”; and versatile woodwindist Bob Sheppard, whose vibrant soloing and sparkling interaction with Maggie on Cole Porter’s “Just One of Those Things” (sax) and “I’m Beginning to See the Light” (flute) add colors and textures that musically match the magic of a Waikiki sunset.
While most of Maggie’s repertoire here finds he struttin’ her stylish stuff on familiar standards – “Ain’t Misbehavin’,” “Just One of Those Things,” “I’ll Be Seeing You,” “Gee Baby Ain’t I Good To You” – there are a handful of outside the box surprises whose “renditions” here are stunning and worth the price of admission alone. “Centerpiece” is a unique, rhythmically hopping and bluesy rarity from the hearts of Harry “Sweets” Edison and Jon Hendricks that finds Maggie opening with a bit of playful scat and showcasing her formidable melodic and improvisational piano bravura (before exciting bass and drum solos).
Another charming bit of fun is her whimsical swirl through the marching beat and Latin sensuality of “Perhaps Perhaps Perhaps,” usually performed in its original Spanish as “Quizas.” Later in the set, the singer brings to life Madeleine Peyroux’s heartfelt slice of encouragement “Don’t Wait Too Long” in an elegant, lighthearted trio setting.
As wonderful as it is to hear Maggie swing her original lyrics and showcase her formidable storytelling skills, Renditions is an amazing open door for us non-Islanders to her equal prowess as a vocal interpreter. Here’s hoping she’ll be sharing lots more of her “renditions” of songs penned by others in the future. No doubt, as on these 12 gems, she’ll make them her own.