By Denise Sullivan | Published January 2019
Pianist, songwriter and vocalist Maggie Herron turned her year of misfortune—a broken arm, the flu, a shift in her vocal range and a near-miss with Hawaii’s Kīlauea volcano—into a leader date that’s a riff on taking life as it comes.
Despite the challenges, Herron came up with 10 originals and two well-chosen covers. The Lennon/McCartney standard “In My Life” is executed with convincing grace, as is Leonard Cohen’s “Dance Me To The End Of Love,” on which Herron adds a certain gravitas that less-experienced voices simply wouldn’t possess.
Relying on a core group of collaborators for support, the bandleader is joined on six cuts by co-producer Bill Cunliffe, who also arranges and accompanies her on piano. Also in her corner is Larry Koonse on guitar and Dean Taba on bass. Gillian Margot and Jason Morales lend harmonies to the gentle melody of “There Is Love,” arranged by Margot and Geoffrey Keezer, who contributes piano.
With all the extra touches on board, Herron’s dusky vocals still are the main event, even when punctuated by the horn section. Her vocals lead, whether on the old-time “Red Hot Jazz,” the theatrical “Small Stuff” or on the Mose Allison-styled rhymes of “Perfect Specimen.”
Her heavy payload of trouble notwithstanding, Herron delivers an adventurous, yet accessible, repertoire that should please longtime listeners from afar, as well as fans who wish to take home a souvenir from her regular sets at Lewers Lounge at the Halekulani Hotel in Honolulu.
A Ton Of Trouble: A Ton Of Trouble; Perfect Specimen; Scheherazade; Salty Wine; Dance Me To The End Of Love; Red Hot Jazz; Small Stuff; There Is Love; Changing Winds; Monkishness; The Dove & The Bourbon; In My Life. (45:53)
Personnel: Grant Geissman, Larry Koonse, guitar; Dean Taba, bass; Bill Cunliffe, Geoffrey Keezer (8), piano; Gillian Margot (8), Jason Morales (8), vocals; Bob Sheppard, flute, bass clarinet; Brandon Fields, saxophone; Bob McChesney, trombone; Ryan Pewees, trumpet.