Sony Holland
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Sony Holland

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"Sony Holland: Swing, Bossas, Ballads & Blues"

I went back and looked at the review I posted on Sony Holland’s last release, “Out Of This World.” I gushed. “Go past Norah and Diana…this one’s worth a special order,” I said. “Highest Recommendation,” I said. “Four Microphones,” I said. I hate when that happens. Because this disc - “Swing, Bossas, Ballads and Blues,” is just as good, if not better.
Ms. Holland’s voice soars somewhere above the Golden Gate Bridge, in her hometown of San Francisco. Art Khu on piano does a great job, and Ms. Holland’s husband, Jerry, wrote half of the tracks, most blending seamlessly with the eight standards.
I keep thinking I’m going to have to put together a mix of “New Standards,” because a couple of these would certainly make the short list, “I Can’t Blame Them For Trying,” along with “Million Dollar Dreams,” and “I’ll Remember Paris” are three of my favorites. One of the originals, “Saving My Life Every Day,” was inspired, the publicity say, by a friend’s “…confession that he considered suicide daily until the birth of his son.”
Yikes. Of the covers, “Meditation” is probably the best, but heck, they’re all good.
Ms. Holland is one of those American singers who spends a fair amount of time in Asia - where audiences are much more appreciative of vocal jazz. For good reason, because her style shows respect for the classics, but she goes further to own the songs she’s singing.
I’ll be listening to this one for a long time.
Highest recommendation. Four Stars (out of four) -

"Sony Holland: Swing, Bossas, Ballads & Blues"

Sony Holland’s latest release concentrates her best qualities, some wonderful original gems and dazzling production values into a solid snapshot of this dynamic and versatile performer.

The CD is split evenly among covers (Roberta Flack’s “The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face,” Rodgers & Hart’s “My Funny Valentine and “The Shadow of Your Smile”) and original material written by Sony’s talented husband Jerry Holland. His songs, interpreted so organically, stand out with numbers like “As You Are,” I Can’t Blame Them For Trying” and “Act Like You’re In Love With Me,” are likely to become American Songbook standards. Yes, they’re that good.

Sony swings with the best of them, and her vocals shine on the slower, languid ballads accompanied by some beautiful piano work and the sensual alto and tenor saxophones of Charles McNeal. A lovely version of Antonio Carlos Jobim’s “Meditation” is just the right choice for Sony’s style. This bossa (an amalgam of the Brazilian samba and American jazz influences displays all of Sony’s best attributes – the attention to rhythm and arrangement, the clear, strong vocals, and her sensual delivery. This song may get Sony the radio rotation she deserves.

Adding to the quality of this recording are arrangements by Jerry Holland, Larry Dunlap and Art Khu with engineering by Grammy Award winner Leslie Ann Jones. Sony is constantly improving – working her act to engage and delight her fans. With the great new original material presented here and the concentration on her strengths (swing and bossas’s), this CD is a hit. - Cabaret Scenes Magazine

"Sony Holland At Yoshi's San Francisco"

An elegant Sony Holland captivated the audience at the brand spanking new Yoshi's of San Francisco on December 11, with great back-up by Charles McNeal on sax, Seward McCain on bass, David Rokeach on drums, Jeff Buenz on guitar and Benny Watson on piano.

Sony Holland is a Minnesota native who moved to San Francisco in 2003 and has been playing the Bay Area's top jazz venues to great success. She rightly holds the title of San Francisco's own chanteuse. I caught her in the past at the AIDS Charity Benefit where she sang only one song. It was a pleasure to hear the cool sounds in her own program of songs ranging from Rodgers and Hammerstein to her own husband Jerry Holland.

Sony Holland is becoming the female Tony Bennett with her stylish arrangements. Her voice reminds me of an early Julie Christy with a touch of Nancy Wilson. Hers is a smooth and sophisticated voice. The 80-minute gig was laid back with very little talking. She segued into songs effortlessly; members of the quintet had their own solos on some of the songs.

Dressed in a short beige/white dress she immediately went into Rodgers and Hammerstein's "Shall We Dance" from The King and I. She softly sang her composer and lyricist husband's "Polk Street Bar" and then hypnotically sang Harry Warren and Mark Gordon's "At Last." The gifted singer gave a soft rendition of Hoagy Carmichael and Ned Washington's "The Nearness of You" with Charles McNeal giving out a mellow sax solo.

Ms. Holland announced that the next songs would have a Latin beat and she introduced Jeff Buenz on guitar. Rodgers and Hammerstein's "It Might As Well Be Spring" had that melodious South American beat and was swiftly followed by Antonio Carlos Jobim, Newton Mendonca and Normal Gimble's "Meditation." She finished with her husband's "San Francisco High."

Sony Holland introduced a new song written by her husband Jerry Holland called "As You Are" with her velvety, sensual vocal cords. Paul Simon was saluted with the soulful "Bridge over Trouble Waters" and "50 Ways to Leave Your Lover." There is a lush quality to her voice as she sang Duke Ellington's "In a Sentimental Mood." Members of the quintet broke out with a jazzy version of the song. She did a classy rendition of Ewan MacColl's "The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face." The chic singer ended the session with her husband's "A Man In Manhattan."

Sony Holland came out for two encores: John Mandel and Paul Francis Webster's "The Shadow of Your Smile" and a swinging arrangement of J. Fred Coots and Haven Gillespie's "Santa Claus Is Coming to Town."

Yoshi's of San Francisco is a beautiful 408 seat nightclub with just perfect sight lines and sounds. This club at 1330 Fillmore Street is probably the most elegant club on the West Coast. - Talking Broadway

"Sony Holland: Out Of This World"

Based in San Francisco, jazz singer Sony Holland delivers a program of thirteen welcome selections, including standards and several originals. Following the mainstream and swinging casually with a hip demeanor, she interprets with a genuine ambience. Working with small, acoustic ensembles, she follows tradition, interpreting each song from the heart.

“Out Of This World” features an exotic interpretation with plenty of built-in excitement, while “At Last” finds the singer pouring emotionally with a laid-back blues texture. The chills can go right through you. Holland’s interpretation of “Skylark” appears in its timeless caricature, while “The Thrill Is Gone” changes pace with a hot guitar/organ combo. It’s on these heated numbers that the singer shows the best aspects of her art: forceful emotion from deep within, along with immaculate musical precision.

Sony Holland treats straight-ahead jazz standards with the care of a traditionalist while bringing a fresh, emotional spark to the forum. Among those providing stellar accompaniment and musical partnership for her recommended album are pianists Art Khu and John R. Burr, guitarist Jim Nichols, tenor saxophonist Charles McNeal, bassist John Shifflett, and drummer David Rokeach. - L.A. Jazz Scene

"Sony Holland At The Plush Room, San Francisco"

Bay Area jazz singer Sony Holland has a style that goes down easy. Her Plush Room engagement over the weekend featured a pleasantly appealing lineup of standards, pop songs and originals.

On Friday night, her band — the excellent Benny Watson on piano, Seward McCain on bass, David Rokeach on drums and Charles McNeal on saxophone, perfectly complemented her vocal performance, her last at the wonderfully intimate venue in the York Hotel, which is closing at the end of the year. (The room’s bookers, Rrazz Entertainment, are opening a new stage in the Nikko Hotel.)

Wearing a bright red dress and sparkly rhinestones, Holland’s persona is as inviting as her sound. She interprets with a light touch, offering nothing too challenging or over-the-top with both the ballads and uptempo tunes.

She opened with Kurt Weill’s “Speak Low” and ended the encore with “A Man in Manhattan” an original by her husband, Jerry Holland, with a tone and theme that blended marvelously with the other classics on the set list.

In between were “The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face,” “50 Ways to Leave Your Lover” and every jazz singer’s favorite, “Meditation.” Among the standout numbers: “Skylark,” “Here’s That Rainy Day” and “Shall We Dance.”

She paid tribute to two of her favorite singers, Johnny Mathis and Tony Bennett, with “The Shadow of Your Smile,” a tune both recorded. Her evocative rendition of the gorgeous melody puts her in fine company. Fans in the Bay Area should look forward to her new recording and a Dec. 11th show at the new Yoshi’s in San Francisco. - San Francisco Examiner


Swing, Bossas, Ballads & Blues, 2008
Jazz Standards & Originals

Out Of This World, 2006
Jazz Standards

On A San Francisco High, 2004
All Original Songs
winner Just Plain Folks Vocal Jazz CD of the Year
Jazz Song Of The Year



The road to singer Sony Holland's loving embrace of the Great American Songbook as well as custom crafted originals is long and winding, yet one that has molded her artistry into a masterpiece of tonal warmth and inviting articulation. The title of her generous and outstanding national debut, Swing, Bossas, Ballads & Blues, holds the promise of a musical smorgasbord that the lovely lady passionately delivers with sensuality, grace and panache. Consisting of 16 imaginatively arranged numbers that swing from a mesmerizing "Speak Low" and "Midnight Sun” to "50 Ways to Leave Your Lover" done with a New Orleans second line beat - plus 8 unforgettable originals penned by her husband Jerry Holland - the album is the culmination of a life spent searching for her musical niche on two continents and via several musical styles. Every experience served to make Sony Holland a singer classically informed yet jazzily influenced, resulting in a dazzling vocal gift that waxes as effortless as it is indelibly impressive.

Sony was born in a Minnesota suburb to a minister father and a mother who was a trained coloratura and pianist. From home to the church, music was a staple of Sony's childhood. "My mother directed the choir of the church where my father was the pastor," Sony shares, "so we were there all day on Sundays. The first time I ever sang in public was with my mom and sisters doing 'Que Sera Sera' at a mother/daughter banquet. My mother was definitely my first musical influence."

Sony attended Concordia College in Moorehead, Minnesota, majoring in voice with a minor in piano. After one year - longing to get back on stage and to experience living in a proper city - she relocated to Minneapolis where she joined a rock band. Seeing the limits of the club scene, Sony moved once again, this time to Nashville, where she heard there was a rich professional music scene brewing. "I met a few publishers and recorded a few demos," Sony says, "Then I met Randy Boudreaux who played me a bunch of songs by a guy named Jerry Holland who just had a #1 country hit called 'Friends' on John Michael Montgomery. I really liked his stuff and asked if I could meet him. The next thing I know, Randy set Jerry and I up on a blind date which turned out to be at a country music event called 'Fan Fair' where we got backstage and met a few stars. The rest is history!'"

Sony left Nashville briefly to accept a gig with a Top 40 band, but in a sweepingly romantic gesture, Jerry flew to Denver to rescue her and they were married shortly afterward. They immediately headed to Paris for 10 months. This is where Sony really dug in and began studying the great singers in earnest. "I wanted to find some music I could sing until I was Tony Bennett's age," Sony reasons. "So I started collecting CDs by Nancy Wilson, Sarah Vaughan and Peggy Lee along with the Mathis stuff I already had." Now fortified with the discipline to apply her voice to this material she was rapidly falling in love with, Sony found a practice space and devoted hours a day without fail to the further development of her instrument and phrasing. Back in Nashville, she put a band together and within a month was gigging steadily at the jazz restaurant F. Scott's - a job she maintained for two years.

Seeking a city more steeped in the jazz tradition the couple headed to San Francisco where Sony quickly began winning the city over...from the ground up! "I started off ‘busking’ there," Sony says smiling at the memory of singing at Fisherman's Wharf and Ghiradelli Square. “None of the other street performers thought I would last, but I was determined to make a living. I sang in the cold, the rain, the wind, even when no one else was around” she recalls, “but that’s how you start to get good.” As her reputation grew, Sony landed sweet gigs at top venues such as Jazz at Pearl's and Yoshi's, with lines out the door. These shows also led to extended overseas gigs in Bangkok and the Park Hyatt in Tokyo (immortalized in the Sofia Coppola film Lost in Translation).

Now Sony herself has been gloriously immortalized with a great national debut CD Swing, Bossas, Ballads & Blues. The project consists of half classic compositions that span the ages and half songs evocatively tailor made for her by her husband. It is being released on the couple's own Van Ness Records label and was engineered by Capitol Records veteran Leslie Ann Jones at George Lucas' state of the art Skywalker Sound Studio. For the sessions, Sony surrounded herself with some of San Francisco's finest players - keyboardists Larry Dunlap and Art Khu, saxophonist Charles McNeal, bassist Seward McCain, drummer David Rokeach, and guitarists Jim Nichols, Dave MacNab and Steve Erquiaga. The overall effect is simply WOW!

Sony brings a relaxed and assured glow to standards such as "The Shadow of Your Smile" and "My Funny Valentine" as well as the gems "Meditation" and "Here's That Rainy Day." "The Great American Songbook standards a