Jazz vocalist Gretje Angell grew up in smoky, dimly-lit clubs as a little-girl roadie for her jazz-drummer father. Her grandfather was also a jazz drummer, so you could say Gretje was born to swing. “If it doesn’t groove then I don’t give it a sh*#,” the Los Angeles-based singer says with a good chuckle.
Gretje ascended the bandstand on her own time. She worked through a heavy dose of stage fright, welcomed motherhood, and studied classical and opera prior launching her jazz career. Today, she announces her debut, "…in any key", a classic jazz vocal album—the kind of long player you put on while savoring wine and cooking and cleaning. "...in any key" simmers with the sensual sophistication of artists such as Anita O'Day, Chet Baker, Carmen McRae, and Ella Fitzgerald.
Onstage and off, Gretje navigates lush balladry, snappy swing, and slinky Brazilian rhythms with sensitivity and dexterity. She’s a darling of the jazz underground who performs regionally, nationally, and internationally, wowing audiences in a broad array of settings. Gretje leads her own ensembles, ranging from intimate guitar and vocal duos to full-band configurations, and also appears with other acclaimed LA-based jazz combos, including Ladd McIntosh Swing Orchestra, Jack’s Cats, and Glen Garrett’s Big Band. Informing her dynamic emotionality and technical aptitude as a singer are her experiences as a soprano opera singer active with the Los Angeles Metropolitan Opera Company.
Gretje was born in Akron, Ohio, and her earliest memories are the long, joyous nights spent in dark jazz clubs, falling asleep in booths while her father commanded the bandstand. Having two generations of jazz drummers ahead of her, it only makes sense that Gretje’s first instrument was bass. Despite the fact that her father passed away prematurely, she still cherishes a few early jam sessions the two shared as a rhythm section. Gretje pursued classical music in college, but battled stage fright which eroded her passion, and she eventually dropped out of college, moved to California, and didn’t sing a note for a decade.
While at a house concert in LA five months pregnant with her son, Gretje heard a jazz vocal and guitar duo that sparked something of a seismic epiphany. “At that moment, it felt if I didn’t try music I was never going to do it,” she remembers. Inspired, but also immersed in a clearly in a time-sensitive life period, Gretje boldly set out to become a jazz vocalist, tirelessly working on her craft, and bravely confronting her stage fright.
The years of woodshedding and self-growth shine through on Gretje’s debut, "…in any key". The album was recorded by gifted guitarist, producer, and arranger Dori Amarilio in his home studio, and its cheeky name is a salute to his virtuosic ability to play any jazz standard in any key, at any moment.
"…in any key" manages to be lush but intimate, and vibey but pristinely produced. The album gracefully swings through balmy voyages into bossa nova and samba, and dips into snappy uptempo numbers and after-hours balladry. Select album highlights include “Love Is Here to Stay,” “Deep In a Dream,” and “Them There Eyes.” “Love Is Here to Stay” captures that elusive magic take where the ensemble work is effortless. The song boasts a breezy bossa groove, delicately nuanced band interplay, and smoldering vocals. “Deep in a Dream” oozes heartache. It is luxuriously textured with real strings courtesy of the Budapest symphony orchestra and bluesy muted trumpet, and it boasts achingly beautiful vocals. On the brisk “Them There Eyes,” Gretje flexes her scat chops, burning through the chord changes with assured ease.
Though this is Gretje’s first album, she maintains the fluidly busy calendar of a consummate professional. Performing and recording as a jazz musician is something Gretje’s father would have been proud of, and, to the end, she dedicated her album to him. Reflecting on that, she shares: “Whenever I gig, I picture him in the back of the room and it always calms my nerves.”
LINER NOTES "IN ANY KEY"-----
Never, in my wildest dreams, did I imagine I'd be following in my father’s footsteps into my own madness, also known as: becoming a jazz musician. My early days were filled listening to the countless jazz records my parents owned (I loved to comb through them and stare at the covers, deeply inhale their musty odor, set them on the turntable and drop the needle), and nights were spent at smoky black clubs where my dad would play and I'd fall asleep in a booth covered by his jacket.
Little did I know he was sowing the seeds of my future, which is as intertwined with him now (17-odd years after his death) as it was then, when he was sitting at his kit and I could crawl into his lap and throw my arms around him and kiss his cheek. MAN! I miss that crazy, old coot. I dedicate this album to him - my completely insane, and completely lovable, late father, Akron-renowned bebop drummer, Tommy "The Hat" Voorhees.