Robin Aleman
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Robin Aleman

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Another up and coming artist, who like Mark Sherman and this reviewer, grew up in the Bronx, is Robin Aleman. This young singer, a Fordham graduate, just issued her first CD, “Tonight,” with David Epstein on piano, Bob Sabin on bass and Peter Retzlaff on drums. Guitarist Peter Smith is featured on 2 of the 14 tracks.

The album features standards by a wide variety of songwriters – Brubeck, Jobim, Thad Jones, Monk and Ellington, to name a few. She does not shy away from odd-meter arrangements, as evidenced on “Tea For Two” and “Some Day My Prince Will Come” and has a flair for Latin music. “All Through the Night” combines an obscure gem by Johnny Mercer & Arthur Schwartz with a Cole Porter tune of the same name. The singer has a sweet voice, a clear articulation of lyrics and a natural swing. At this point in her career, she seems more at home with the sunnier material and songs of youthful yearning. Her album is an auspicious debut.
- Town & Village


A fine singer based in New York, Robin Aleman is not afraid to take chances but makes it all sound natural and effortless. Her sweet voice is classically trained and one could imagine her singing on Broadway (she does a fine job on "Tonight") but she has the spirit of a jazz musician. She takes "Tea For Two" in 7/4 time and "Someday My Prince Will Come" in 5/4, duets with pianist David Epstein (who surprisingly switches to stride) on "Teach Me Tonight," and revives Duke Ellington's "Azure," Dave Brubeck's "In Your Own Sweet Way" and "Nobody's Heart." Assisted by Epstein, guitarist Pete Smith, bassist Bob Sabin and drummer Peter Retzlaff, she is frequently touching on the ballads (such as "In The Wee Small Hours Of The Morning") but confident on medium-tempo material too. Robin Aleman is a name to remember. Available from www.robinaleman.com. - LA Jazz Scene


Robin Aleman's debut CD, Tonight, will be one of those recordings that once you hear it, you will find yourself haunted by it for sometime to come. Robin's voice has a ethereal quality to it. Her voice draws you in and surrounds you with an emotional blanket of sound that has a wide range of depth and texture to it. "All Through the Night," the opening track, is a up-tempo number that not only demonstrates the range of vocal ability Robin has, but shows off the tight trio of musicians that back her on this recording, David Epstein on piano, Bob Sabin on bass and Peter Retzlaff on drums. Along with guest guitarist Pete Smith who is featured on two of the 14 tracks.

"Azure" is a moody number that conjures up a picture of a smoky jazz club in the East Village of New York or on the left bank in Paris. Bob Sabin on bass is a perfect counter to Robin's heartfelt, lovelorn vocals and the two ease their way through the song, sounding as if they are two parts of the same heart and soul.

"Let's Fall In Love" has a twist to it in the beginning with what sounds like a military parade introduction, played by Peter Retzlaff, but then switches gears into a light and airy number that captivates and reminds you of how you felt the first time you fell in love. "A Child is Born" is a companion piece that seems to bookend "Let's Fall In Love" very nicely, and it also features the elegant playing of Bob Sabin , David Epstein and Mr Retzlaff. These three back each song with a tightly woven style of playing that supports Aleman's voice without overpowering her.

"It Was Night (Foi A Noite)" has the unmistakable mark of Antonio Carlos Jobim and features Pete Smith on guitar and switches between languages without losing any of its warm appeal and smooth Latin influenced sound. Tonight boasts a very impressive lineup of songwriters with the likes of Cole Porter, Duke Ellington, Harold Arlen, Dave Brubeck and Thelonious Monk to name just a few. In addition to the jazz greats there are also those who are not usually known for writing jazz numbers such as Sammy Cahn , Richard Rogers and Leonard Bernstein. "Tonight" from Bernstein's immortal West Side Story, is given a fresh new interpretation that leads you to think that Aleman would be as much at home on the Broadway stage as in a jazz club. She certainly has the vocal ability for either.

"In The Wee Small Hours of the Morning," "Some Day My Prince Will Come," "When The Lights Are Low" and "Nobody's Heart" round out the recording and each is a glimpse into the heart and soul of a bright and gifted artist who gives each song her own unique stamp and feeling that lingers long after the music stops. This is a disk that deserves to be listened to again and again.

- Jim McElroy


Robin Aleman is a young artist experienced as a studio singer, voice over artist on television programs and member of two jazz bands. In August of last year, New York-based Aleman released her debut album of light and smooth jazz vocals titled Tonight.
With a smile and a voice that captures your attention, this singer does a marvelous job with her interpretation of fourteen old standards and classics by such giants as Cole Porter, Harold Arlen, Thad Jones, Antonio Carlos Jobim, Sammy Cahn, Leonard Bernstein and Rodgers & Hart. Aleman records this CD with a quartet that includes pianist David Epstein, bassist Bob Sabin, drummer Peter Retzlaff and guitarist Pete Smith.


The album opens up with the quick tempo and lively Cole Porter tune “All Through The Night” in which the singer demonstrates her range. This is followed by “Azure,” a slow piece that tends to drag a bit in what to me was the poorest track on this set. The music does pick up with Aleman belting away with strong performances on Arlen’s “Let’s Fall In Love,” “A Child is Born” and one of the best cuts, Jobim’s “It Was Night (Foi A Noite).” On this beautiful bossa nova, Aleman sings with a jazzy Latin passion in Portuguese before returning to English accompanied by the crisp guitar work of Smith.

The familiar “Teach Me Tonight” is essentially a duet with piano man Epstein. The title cut brings back memories of the musical West Side Story as her treatment of the song resonates with emotion. I particularly enjoyed “When Lights Are Low” that features a jazzy Aleman in a tune that also provides space for nice solos from the band.

A disc with excellent song selection demonstrating this singers’ talents, Tonight is a compelling debut album showcasing a wonderful performance by Aleman in a respectable recording worth a listen. For the future I would hope that she consider spreading her wings and see what she can do with a larger ensemble. My standard call to vocalist who record with small groups is to “Expand the band, if you can.” Add some reeds, vibes and a Hammond B-3 organ to get that jazzier big band flavor and see just how that beautiful voice sounds with such a background.
- Edward Blanco


Too often today, we will hear from singers who, in order to curry favor with a wider audience, will skirt the edges of jazz or speak of their “jazz influences”, while singing pop, hip-hop or anything other than jazz. So I am always encouraged to hear from a young vocalist who is truly endeavoring to become a jazz singer; trying to maintain artistic integrity and take a few chances, in a “take the money and run” vocal world.

On Tonight, we are introduced to Robin Aleman; a New York native, Fordham University graduate and student of one of the brightest lights among jazz singers to come along in the last ten years, Dena DeRose. Ms. Aleman sings with a pleasant, upbeat voice that, in tone, is reminiscent of ‘90s smooth jazz icon, Basia and also at times, of one of today’s more popular singers, Norah Jones. But make no mistake about it, Tonight is a jazz singer’s album, from the song selection, which consists of many familiar standards, along with a few rarely heard gems, to her skilled and inventive quartet of sidemen, all of whom are seasoned and respected members of today’s New York jazz scene.

As mentioned before, Ms. Aleman is willing to take a few chances, in order to breathe new life into some of jazz’s “sacred vocal cows” and as happens anytime you take chances, there are a few missteps. However there are enough things that work that you become excited about hearing more in the future, as this artist develops. Many of the more stimulating moments occur when the already spare instrumentation is stripped down even further, such as on Duke Ellington’s “Azure”, where she is accompanied only by bassist Bob Sabin. Sabin’s work throughout this disc is rock solid and he truly is a talent on the bass that is deserving of wider recognition. On “Azure”, he creates a dreamy featherbed on which Robin’s vocal lightly rests. It is a track that you appreciate more with each hearing. On Sammy Cahn’s “Teach Me Tonight”, which has become a virtual cliché as an overwrought ballad, Ms. Aleman uses her age to her advantage, performing the song as a mid-tempo stroll with pianist David Epstein. In this case, the “student” seems to look forward to her “lessons” with youthful anticipation. She also performs Iola Brubeck’s rarely heard lyric on her husband Dave’s “In Your Own Sweet Way”, a welcome treat. Mr. Epstein’s inventive, swinging piano solo made me want to applaud at the end, as if I were hearing it in a club.

As good as these cuts are, the standout track however, is an obscure Antonio Carlos Jobim gem, “Foi A Noite” (“It Was Night”). This song and Ms. Aleman’s voice were made for each other and the musicians are right there with her, creating a mood that is gentle and smooth, yet completely compelling. “It Was Night” opens with the solo acoustic guitar of British guitarist Pete Smith, setting a tone suggestive of Jon Lucien’s “Lady Love”. Then Robin enters, singing the original Portuguese lyric as the quartet sets a lilting Bossa Nova beat (listen for drummer Peter Retzlaff’s brilliant brushwork). Smith then returns with a guitar solo that would make two of his influences, Joe Pass and Martin Taylor, quite proud. By the time the song concludes, with Ms. Aleman singing Gene Lee’s English lyric, you will not want the experience to end. “Foi A Noite” will have you hitting the “repeat track” button on your CD player, numerous times.
Robin Aleman’s Tonight is a promising debut from a talented jazz singer, whom we expect to hear many great things from in the coming years.
- Curtis Davenport


Robin Aleman owns an impressively strong contralto vocal instrument, but uses dynamics prudently and phrases with what appears to be an instinctive, speech inflected fluidity. She’s willing to treat “Tonight” as an interior monologue, rather than a barrio aria, which may well be a first for this Sondheim standard. This time out, Maria (as
played by Robin) is not so much singing the Cliff Notes to “Romeo & Juliet” for the benefit of the entire West Side as she is simply rehearsing her own role. Pete Smith plays some lovely guitar lines in support.

Ms. A’s duets with bassist, Bob Sabin, on “Azure” and pianist, David Epstein, on “Teach” and “Heart” are beautifully shaded, with her interpretation of the Rodgers & Hart standard (“Heart”) no less than definitive. Drummer, Peter Retzlaff surprises with a martial cadence to open “Let’s Fall,” which Robin continues through the verse. As the track unfolds, he makes excellent use of his drum kit. There’s more of the Smith guitar on the infrequently sung Jobim gem, “Night,” which features Robin singing the original Newton Mendonica lyrics in Portuguese, and the Gene Lees lyrics in (what else?) English. On “Child,” she doesn’t so much scat as use her voice “instrumentally,” and her “Midnight” reading is so (dare I apply such a word to a piece of Monk’s) exquisite that I’m quite prepared to forgive her for omitting the necessary apostrophe from the title, said omission implying that midnight is a geometrical concept rather than a critical time of night.

David Epstein proves to be, as Robin Aleman acknowledges in her “thank you” notes, a “fantastic piano player.” I suspect the arrangements are his, and his extended statement on “Sweet Way” is beautifully un-Brubeckian. But the rhythm team is consistently fine, and one of this session’s greatest pleasures is the all-for-one and one-for-all affinity of all
five players.

So, what else? Well, perhaps, a little surprise—a small stroke of genius, with Ms. A. interpolating some lyrics from the obscure, but identically titled, Arthur Schwartz/Johnny Mercer tune (from the 1942 Bogart movie of identical title) into her version of Cole Porter’s “All Through The Night.” But, has Robin Aleman achieved perfection with her debut disc? Hardly. There are a few isolated spots where her intonation is suspect,
as on “Prince,” where even her phrasing seems somewhat compromised. Nonetheless, this is a very impressive first outing.

©Cadence Magazine 2007
www.cadencebuilding.com ph: 315-287-2852
- Alan Bargebuhr


Discography

Tonight, 2005

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Bio

"Her voice draws you in and surrounds you with an emotional blanket of sound that has a wide range of depth and texture to it." So says Jim McElroy at JazzReview.com and others agree.

A lover of music since she was young, Robin can sing any style of music and often did just that. She grew up in the Bronx, NY singing pop and rock tunes from the 80's and 90's. While studying at Fordham University she began studying classical music and then found jazz and has been singing it ever since.

Influenced by such greats as Ella Fitzgerald and Carmen McRae, Robin was recently one of only 8 singers selected to attend a master class given by Janis Siegel, Laurel Masse and Ann Hampton-Callaway. She has also studied with modern artists Dena DeRose and Nancy Marano.

In 2005, Robin released her debut CD to critical acclaim. Using up-and-coming musicians, the CD effectively showcases not only her singing talent, but her arrangements as well. She effectively makes classic standards sound new again and chose a varied repertoire for this first recording.

In addition to her quartet, Robin performs in a Latin band, Dos, and has lent her voice and bi-lingual skills to corporate and sports DVDs. She also works as a studio singer and often performs in sold-out cabaret shows in New York City.