Vocalist Macy Chen’s After 75 Years is, to borrow the cliché, a labour of love. For one thing, the recording came in one of the most exhilarating and flat-out awesome presentations I’ve come across. It is a compendium of memories, sent in an elaborate envelope complete with pictures and a true story that spans three generations.
After getting over the packaging, barely, Chen’s voice began to scorch its sexy little way through the speakers. Singing a mesh of jazz and traditional Chinese standards, including six tunes from 1930s-era Shanghai, the sultry singer engages us from the outset with the genre she lovingly calls “jazAsia.”
The point of all of this isn’t just to showcase a great voice or to introduce standards like “Unrequited Love” and “Languishing Dreams.” No, the real meat of After 75 Years is to close the cultural gap by informing us that, yes, there really was a jazz movement in China when America was obsessed with Big Band. And yes, the songs are worth listening to.
Chen brings an easy, flowing sound to these pieces from the 30s. She also has some of her own numbers, including a lush string-led song called “Fly Away.”
Hearing Macy Chen sing has become one of my new pleasures, right up there with a glass or four of wine and a good cigar. Her tone is crisp and sultry without overdoing it. She shows a restraint that many of our “top” singers could learn from. And for Chen, it really is all about conveying what lies inside by using the wonders of jazAsia.
Article originally published as part of Music Reviews: Jason Kao Hwang, Spontaneous River, EDGE, and Macy Chen at Blogcritics.org