Heart-felt. Mississauga jazz singer Shannon Butcher features some beautiful standards on her new album, Little Hearts. She will launch the CD Wednesday, June 2 at Hugh's Room in Toronto.

May 22, 2010
Written by John Stewart

Setting a new standard

Mississauga jazz singer Shannon Butcher features some beautiful standards on her new album — one of which she wrote herself.
Along with Burt Bacharach and Hal David's Walk on By and Irving Berlin's What'll I Do, the session musicians who worked with the 32-year-old graduate of Cawthra Park Secondary School thought they detected another classic standard as they worked — one they couldn't quite place.

The song they referred to is Hush — the standout on a solid sophomore effort from Butcher. It's one of five songs on the CD that Butcher wrote or co-wrote.

Hush is a Latin-tinged, tremulous ballad that could have come straight out of the era of Tin Pan Alley and the Great American songbook.

"When we were recording it, several of the musicians thought it was a standard," says Butcher in an interview from her Toronto home. "They wanted to know who wrote it. I took that as a huge compliment."

There were no originals from the University of Toronto graduate on her highly-praised first CD, Words We Both Could Say, but there are five she wrote or co-wrote on the new one. She performs one of them with its co-author, jazz singer and pianist Michael Kaeshammer.

Mississaugans who attended the Mayor's Living Arts Centre tribute to Oscar Peterson in February 2008 will recognize another of the originals: No DJ, which is Butcher's tribute to the local jazz giant. It was the first song she ever wrote.

She treasures the memory of singing for the master himself in 2005 at a fundraising concert at the elementary school in Mississauga that bears his name.

"He was so lovely, even with his declining health," she says. "He was still giving so much of his energy to the public."

Little Hearts includes several jazzy reinterpretations of contemporary works, which has become something of a Butcher trademark. They include Glass Tiger's Don't Forget Me When I'm Gone and Bryan Adams' Run To You, as well as Lily Allen's Smile.

"It's a great way to reach out to people who aren't normally listening to jazz," she says.

The album takes its title from its last, and most personal, song called Better Kisser.

One of Butcher's favourite family photos shows her grandmother and grandfather laughing in the reception line on their wedding day as a woman walks away in the background.

The woman, a former girlfriend of her grandfather's, has just told him that "you were a better kisser when you were a single man." Butcher wrote the tune for her grandmother's 80th birthday.

"It's just a tribute to that moment and that photo," says Butcher.

The soft interpretation, featuring vibes and even a glockenspiel, closes the CD on a perfect personal note.

The singer — performing with many of the same musicians from the Little Hearts session — will launch the CD Wednesday, June 2 at Hugh's Room. Tickets are $12 in advance or $15 at the door.


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