I’m not 100% sure, but I think this is the first time I’ve ever reviewed a new album by a vet. That might surprise you, but when I say vet I’m not talking about a veteran musical artist or a veteran from military service – I’ve probably encountered a few of those. I’m talking about the other kind of vet – an animal doctor – and that’s exactly what Ava Logan has been for many years.
But she’s also had a parallel career as a part-time actress and as one of the Chicago area’s busiest jazz vocalists, not only singing in clubs but also portraying two of her idols – Ella Fitzgerald and Nancy Wilson – in theater setttings. And the musical part of her life is definitely in ascendancy with the release of her debut album, So Many Stars, on the Divavet Music* label. (DivaVet — get it?)
With the help of some skilled pros, including guitarist Henry Johnson (who also acted as producer), pianist Larry Novak, bassist Larry Gray and drummer Leon Joyce, Ava has put together an intriguing collection. It’s obvious that she’s picked a diversified mix of tunes that should appeal to a wide spectrum of listeners.
Among those are familiar standards such as “Day In, Day Out” and “The Song Is You,” along with a few surprises. Among those is “Day Dream,” an Ellington piece that also features Johnson chipping in on vocal. The duo deliver a soft and sweet treasure. Another sparkling track is “So Many Stars,” a Latin-flavored song often performed by Sergio Mendez — but Ava’s inspiration might also be a later version by Sarah Vaughan.
Ava’s warm and vibrant voice is certainly reminiscent of Sarah and others, but she wisely doesn’t seem to be trying to imitate any of the legends. Instead she shows confidence in her own abilities, even taking on a couple of pieces that others might avoid. For example, she tackles a Peggy Lee song, “I Love Being Here With You,” and does a fine job with it. But she shows real courage by including “At Last,” an iconic classic that is absolutely owned by Etta James — so much so that it’s difficult to get past. But with Johnson’s guitar work helping to pave the way, Ava gives us something that’s well worth the listen.
An outstanding debut album for Ava Logan, one that should appeal to many listeners.
* Sound samples available here.