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  • Jonathan Widran

MARIA JACOBS, Back at the Bop Stop

While it’s a most unusual practice for a renowned jazz artist to follow one live album with a second with no studio dates in between, the intervening pandemic years between the extraordinary vocalist and songwriter Maria Jacobs’ Bootleggin’ at the Bop Stop (2019) and her latest, Back at the Bop Stop make it seem like two different eras and realities that cry out for an emotional bridge to capture both time frames in her life.

Though she was a prolific part of the L.A. jazz scene for 12 years, there’s something magical about her playing a venue (formally called Bop Stop @ The Music Settlement in her beloved hometown of Cleveland. The current performance, recorded in January 2022, finds her vibing intuitively, conversationally and quite dynamically with a whole new trio – pianist Rock Wehrmann (who played the original live date), bassist Bryan Thomas and drummer Jamey Haddad.

Whether she’s sharing her most vulnerable heartfelt emotions on sweetly thoughtful originals (“Infatuation,” “Pour Me a Cup of Yesterday”) or plumbing new adventurous twists on beloved standards like Freddie Hubbard’s cheery, easy swinging “Up Jumped Spring” (featuring lyrics by Abbey Lincoln), Cole Porter’s “You’d Be So Nice to Come Home To” (performed with equal parts gracefulness and wild invention), Jacobs is all about creating fresh sonic worlds via her mix of hushed intimacy, cool laid back swing, measured belting and – perhaps the most striking tool in her ample arsenal – her otherworldly scatting ability.

She employs her wordless vocal charm delicately and sensually on the Porter tune, then peps up the bebop energy for her octave scaling excursion on “Deed I Do” and approximating Cannonball Adderley’s sax solo on a brisk roll through “Never Will I Marry.” She complements the 10 live tracks at the Bop with two moonlit studio tracks, duetting soulfully on a mournful “Blue Moon” with saxophonist Bobby Selvaggio and bringing back the cats who backed her on the 2019 live date (including bassist Aidan Plank and drummer Mark Gonder) and some hipster horns for her original charming, romantic, high energy romp “Pale Moon, Blue Sky.”


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