--The Music is the Magic--

Jazz Society of Oregon, George Fendel, May, 2015

Sometimes one can get a lot of insight into a singer before ever hearing a single note by perusing the list of songs the singer has chosen. That’s what I did. Aside from etched in stone standards like “Out of This World,” “Fascinating Rhythm” and “Them There Eyes,” Cooke clearly shows with these and lesser known gems, that she’s listened to a lot of music. Want proof? Well, consider the inclusion of pianist Ronnell Bright’s obscure but whimsical “Sweet Pumpkin,” a tune brought to my attention by another fine jazz singer, Bill Henderson. Or how about “How I Wish,” a Thelonious Monk tune we know instrumentally as “Ask Me Now” with a Jon Hendricks lyric. Consider also English composer Leslie Bricusse’s “When I Look in Your Eyes,” or Dave Frishberg’s triumph “Our Love Rolls On.” For me, the biggest surprise is Roger Kellaway’s under-appreciated beauty “I Have the Feeling I’ve Been Here Before.” For good measure, toss in “Lazy Afternoon,” Peggy Lee’s mega-hit “Mañana,” and a few others, and you have quite an album.

But what makes it all work so well is the control, intonation and pure jazz feeling of Cooke, a 73-year-old singer who sounds a good 30 years younger. With well-honed colleagues backing her, Cooke puts it all out there on this session. I was sure impressed; I think you will be as well.

All About Jazz - April 2015 C. Michael Bailey

“Lainie Cooke is a singer not afraid to take chances. Her third recording, The Music is the Magic, she populates her recital with near standards: songs that are familiar but not cliche. Supported by a reeds-led quartet anchored by drummer (and producer on this recording) Ralph Peterson, Lainie displays a command of vocal jazz that is impressive. “Lazy Afternoon” and “Sweet Pumpkin” are sung with a Sarah Vaughan angularity betraying a good deal of practice and talent. Abbey Lincoln’s tightly arranged title piece hosts a rhythm section interlude featuring bassist Luques Curtis and Peterson’s percussive drumming and tart trumpet playing.”

The New York City Jazz Record - April 2015 Alex Henderson

“Listening to Lainie Cooke’s third album, one is likely to wonder why a singer this talented is not better known. It comes down to marketing above all else. The 73-year-old Minneapolis native, who has spent most of her adult life in New York City, has only recorded sporadically (her first album Here’s to Life was released in 2002, followed by It’s Always You in 2008). And although she has a long history of performing live in NYC, she has not done a great deal of touring. But Cooke’s obscurity doesn’t make this Ralph Peterson- produced CD any less enjoyable. Cooke favors a warm, appealing postbop approach, which draws on the influence of Sheila Jordan, Annie Ross and Anita O’Day (among others) and The Music Is The Magic underscores her willingness to take some chances when it comes to selecting material.”

Cadence - April 2015

“LAINIE COOKE’s [voc], THE MUSIC IS THE MAGIC [Onyx 005] is a full length CD and I’m glad it is. At 73 when she recorded this, she shows little sign of voice deterioration and her choice of material is refreshingly hip. Beside the title track, one of Abbey Lincoln’s finest compositions, there is Ronnell Bright’s “Sweet Pumpkin”, Monk’s “How I wish” [Ask Me Now], Peggy Lee’s “Mañana”, Frishberg’s “Our Love Rolls On” and Kellaway’s “I Have The Feeling I’ve Been Here Before”. These titles are joined by “Lazy Afternoon”, “Loving You”, “When I Look Into Your Eyes”, “Fascinating Rhythm”, “Out Of this World” and “Them Their Eyes”. Besides fine renderings of the program (the aging of this singer is only apparent on ballads like “When I Look Into Your Eyes” but with it comes an emotional punch youth could not bring) add to that fine jazz work from the rest of the group [Tedd Firth-p, Luques Curtis or Tabari Lake-b, Myron Walden-sax, Ralph Peterson-dms/tpt] and you get music well worth listening to.”

Back to top

--It's Always You--

eJazzNews - July 2009 Edward Blanco

“Better late than never, is a phrase everyone is familiar with but takes on a special meaning for vocalist Lainie Cooke, a remarkable singer who has waited more than most for the opportunity to engage her first love of song. With “It’s Always You,” her sophomore recording, Cooke presents a mellow twelve-track set of wonderful standards bathed in new light and well accompanied by a finesse cast of players. No longer a youngster, this mature seasoned veteran of the arts, possesses powerful vocals allowing her to travel effortlessly from fiery passages to soothing cool terrain in graceful style.”

JazzTimes - March 2009 Christopher Loudon

“Among jazz singers, there’s never been any shortage of late-to-the-game practitioners, but Lainie Cooke numbers among the few who can claim to have started early–very early–yet waited more than half a lifetime to make their recording debut…

Now with more than another half-decade having passed, Cooke has delivered a follow-up disc, demonstrating that her unique brand of steel-lined warm-an enticing style that suggests the musical astuteness of Sheila Jordan blended with the salty panache of Anita O’Day-has in no way diminished. Trolling the fogged passages of “Tuesdays in Chinatown,” gently peeling back the tender folds of “The Very Thought of You”, softly plumbing the elegant regret of Cole Porter’s “After You,” or suggesting a female Sinatra as she meanders through O’Day’s cheeky barroom anthem, “Waiter Make Mine Blues,” Cooke consistently proves the long wait has been more than worthwhile.”

WRTC JAZZ - Top 50 For 2008

“It’s Always You” included in the list!

WRTC Bob Parzych - Hartford, CT

“Classic tunes done in Classy way!”

Jazz Improv Magazine, June 2008 Bob Gish

“Here’s a delightful assembly of musicians holding forth on a cool dozen ditties new and old. It’s a winning CD all around: Lainie Cooke’s vocals are smooth and comforting, filled with that old heartache blues feeling (e.g., check out “When A Woman Loves a Man” as a kind of epitome of how to sing a torch song). This is so whether she sings a ballad or swings out on tunes like “It’s Always You.” Cameron Brown supplies just the right pulse and phrasing for the first introductory phrases. After a chorus, Tedd Firth takes over establishing the fulsome jazz credentials of the group with Matt Wilson’s cymbals ringing out we’re here to play. Brown ends things appropriately enough with a few measures of goodbye.”

In Tune International, October 2008 Dan Singer

“Here’s a truly gifted vocalist. Ms. Cooke is from the Sheila Jordan school of singing. On her 12-song programme here she’s just wonderful. Her delightfully swinging “Too Close for Comfort” (Bock/WeissHolofcener) contains an unpredictable scat just when you least expect it. That is exactly the kind of a serendipity singer she is. Lainie gives forth with surprise after surprise song after song. “The Very Thought of You” (Noble) is stretched out ever so carefully that the listener just can’t wait for the next sung line. “I will Wait for You” (Legrand/Demy/Gimbel) is sung softly, with just an ever so slight beat. When she sings the word”share” it’s quite clear exactly what she means, In fact her meaningful accented singing is as pure as can be. There’s no misunderstanding here. Her crystal clear style is quite original and most appealing.”

Back to top

--Here's to Life--

In Tune International Magazine, August, 2009 Dan Singer - Singer's Singers

“This 2002 dozen-song collection is wonderful. “It’s Magic” (Cahn/Styne) sure is. Taken for a slight swinging beat, Lainie in a relaxing performance handles herself admirably. It’s a novel new take on an old song. The wonderful title song (Butler/Molinary) which can’t ever be ruined is also done in a fresh pick me up toe tapping arrangement. This treasure of a great piece of material is in perfect hands. Her conclusion is like grand opera. “Close Your Eyes” (Petkere) begins with a whisper like vocal. Midway her resounding scat sets things right along and it’s a thrilling clear sailing vocal. “Bye Bye Blackbird” (Dixon/Henderson) swings from start to finish. It’s beat is still ringing in my ears. “The Nearness of You” (Carmichael /Washington) has much of Sheila Jordan’s tender emotional style. Ms. Cooke goes many steps further though in an unbelievable duet with her talented bass player Cameron Brown. Her version of “With a Song in my Heart” (Roger/Hart) is a joy. With just the right amount of an inspiring beat it sails.”

Jazz Improv Magazine - April/May 2004 Bill Donaldson

“Lainie Cooke’s voice is all about projection. And control. And dynamics. And lyrical insight. And connecting to her listeners. Which makes sense since she has helped to sustain herself by singing commercial voiceovers… and by coaching voiceover technique as well.

On Here’s to Life!, Cooke surrounds herself with top-shelf musicians from both coasts who, by the evidence of the music on the CD, had as much fun as she did during the recording process.

“I Just Found out about Love” kicks off the CD inauspiciously, making the listener wonder what’s to come-a standard piano trio employed merely to back up a singer throughout all twelve tracks, or a lowering-ofexpectations that contrasts with the eventual conclusion of a song-length build-up. It doesn’t take long to find out that the second option is the one that Cooke chose. For after the first chorus, the song opens up into a solid swing leading into Joey Morant’s blatting and smearing trumpet solo that hints at more delights to come throughout the rest of the recording.”

Music-Tech.Net - Indie Artist Showcase Review **** Four Stars

“Burning jazz sidemen like pianist Ted Firth and bassist Cameron Brown help make cabaret singer Lainie Cooke live up to her last name. Stylish delivery makes “Bye Bye Blackbird” and the title track of “Here’s To Life.”

Cadence - September 2003 Alan Bargebuhr

“Pianist, arranger, Dick Shreve leads a California trio (Maize, Kreibich) for five of Lainie Cooke’s tracks. Her supple soprano shows surprising warmth and ample dynamic range as she correctly identifies Johnny Mercer’s “Quit” lyric (Jimmy Rowles wrote the music) for the erotic tease it’s meant to be. Her melodic variations on “Magic,” make it a far more personal story than the familiar Doris Day version, as nice as Doris’ version was … and still is. The trio really cooks on a propulsive “Close,” with some convincing scat by Lainie. Bob Maize’s resounding bass is strong in support. She gives “In My Heart,” a lavishly open, rhapsodic reading, with Peter Woodford’s guitar added to the rhythm ensemble. Is that a bit of vocalese overdubbing at the very end?It’s a welcome little touch. “Bourbon” is a Shreve original, a boilerplate saloon song with a better lyric than the title suggests. Lainie sells it, and I bought it…greedily. The East Coast trio, with Tedd Firth on piano, is just as solid as the West. Joey Morant adds some deliciously smeary trumpet to “Found Out” and “Blackbird,” and Lainie lives her “Life,” with Cameron Brown’s powerful bass tones behind her, as well as Matt Wilson’s subtle drum accents bristling athwart. Her joy is infectious and quite a contrast to Shirley Horn’s dolefully halting take on the same song. “

The Jazz Connection 0100 Phil McCarthy

“Being a bi-coastal artist for many years it is appropriate that Lainie Cooke’s first ever recording features players from New York and Los Angeles. Both sets of musicians support Lainie beautifully. Her interpretations of this tasty selection of tunes shows that not only is she concerned with lyrics but, more importantly, melodic and musical structure. From Cameron Brown’s bass support on “The Nearness of You” to the CD title song “Here’s to Life” it is evident that Lainie Cooke is in command of the lyrics and music. It is always a danger when doing familiar standards that what we hear are trite expressions. Not so here. Lainie Cooke makes us hear these tunes newly. We also hear “Bourbon Rain”, an original by Dick Shreve rarely recorded before, delivered as comfortably as any other standard. Lainie’s magic is hearing new avenues of presentation and phrasing. It’s like having Thanksgiving dinner at a friends. The dishes are all familiar but the recipes are different. This big talent in a small package presents her voice powerfully and with confidence. Her choice of musicians on both coasts proves her commitment to Jazz. Very jazzy arrangements!!”

LA Jazz Scene Jim Santella

“The power in her voice gives Lainie Cooke an advantage over the competiton. She swings a program of familiar songs but what makes her performance stand out is that these interpretations are all her own. Everything in her vocal style turns out fresh new and exciting. Cooke has talent.”

Harvey Siders (email to Marty Morgan - PRPlus)

“I can’t possibly recall what I wrote about her in the last Millennium; I only know I dug the quality of her voice, I believed in her and I was so impressed by her intonation and phrasing. Nothing has changed regarding her talents or my reactions. I think it’s a great album.”

“What knocks me out is that she is absolutely fearless whenever she is confronted by a bar line. She’s so confident about her sense of time. And if words get in the way, she simply dispenses with them. I’ve always hated “It’s Magic,” because if the singer follows the songwriter’s original notes, it becomes a sing-songy bore. Ah, but Lainie breathes new life in it. At times she re-writes it and improves it. (I guess that’s what improvisation is all about.) She does the same kind of embroidery on “Nearness of You” and it’s so refreshing.”

O's Place Jazz Newsletter Oscar Groomes www.OsPlaceJazz.com

“Lainie breathes lots of life through these dozen classic jazz ballads. Along with the title track, there’s “Close Your Eyes”, an upbeat arrangement of “Let’s Do It’ and “Bye Bye BlackBird”. The surrounding trio (quartet on track 10) is solid as a rock allowing Cooke to fully express her celebration.”

Jerry L. Atkins DJ - Texarkana, Texas

“She’s enthusiastic, innovative and romantic. My favorite track here is the not often heard “Shining Sea”. Certainly she loves bass that is prominent in most of the well-done charts. Beautiful CD packaging. I hear and appreciate everything about this unique vocal album.”

Dr. Mike Matheny, Music Director, radioio

“Great music… great voice…great delivery…glad you sent the cd our way love Morant on the trumpet…congrats on such talent.”

Dick Crockett -"The Voice" 88.7fm Sacramento, CA

“THE TWIRLIES are a celebration of subjectivity, partiality and acheivement in jazz performance and composition every year. Congratulations Lainie Cooke on your nomination for 2005 Best Lady Vocalist. You are honored for your work in a world wide Pantheon of jazz vocalists who communicate a love for life through their joy and music. Best from the Academie of Jazz Twirlie!”

Back to top


International Review of Music Picks of the Week : April 16 - 22 By Don Heckman

“At a proud sixtysomething, Cooke still hasn’t receive either the visibility or the accolades that her vocal imagination deserves. But her passionate performances should be heard at every opportunity”

Voicing Her True Love By Zan Stewart October 15, 1998

Lainie Cooke has a song in her repertoire by the great pianist Jimmy Rowles called “Don’t Quit Now.” The lyrics are about the rewards of perseverance, and Cooke knows from personal experience that they speak the truth.

Twice in her career, Cooke has taken lengthy hiatuses from singing: once in the ’60s, when the English invasion turned pop music on its head, and in the ’80s, when opportunities for work became scarce. But she’s discovered she loathes how she feels when not performing–she’s long made her main living as a commercial voice-over artist–and she’s taking another shot at her first love.

“I felt an enormous sense of disappointment in myself that I hadn’t stayed the course, that somehow I had failed my own dream,” said Cooke, a petite woman with a powerhouse voice, talking about the times when she didn’t sing.

“I felt an enormous sense of disappointment in myself that I hadn’t stayed the course, that somehow I had failed my own dream,” said Cooke, a petite woman with a powerhouse voice, talking about the times when she didn’t sing.

Cooke, a New York resident who lived in Los Angeles from 1979-82, appears tonight and Friday at Chadney’s in Burbank. She talked about what it feels like to sing, about singing’s potential for deep and moving moments.

“When I’m on the bandstand, I’m sharing the basic essence of who I feel am,” she said.

“There, I’m a totally open instrument, open to any musical suggestion that comes along. At the same time, I have to focus on what I am singing about. As corny as it sounds, it can be like going into another world. There have been times when I really felt the music was singing me, that I was the instrument for it. That’s pure excitement, with ‘pure’ being the operative word.”

Cooke is no stranger to singing. She started professionally in her native Minneapolis when she was 7, and toured with local swing bands at 14. But when she landed in New York in 1961, work as a voice-over artist came easier than work as a vocalist.

Still, there were engagements at the Copacabana and Sweetwaters, and, when she lived in Los Angeles, at Carmelo’s, Le Caf and the Money Tree. The highlight of her career, she said, was participating in a Gershwin marathon in the late ’80s sponsored by the Buffalo (N.Y.) Philharmonic, and receiving a standing ovation.

“One reason I stopped singing was that I couldn’t make something like that happen again,” she said.

At Chadney’s, Cooke will be backed by the ace team of pianist Dick Shreve and bassist Bob Maize. The program will include some Gershwin tunes, some selections that Sinatra sang, like “Wee Small Hours of the Morning,” and some jazz-tinged tunes, such as “Don’t Quit Now” and “Small Day Tomorrow.”

Ballads will definitely be spotlighted. “They have so much heart,” she said.

Cooke is glad she came back to singing.

“I wasn’t sure I would be able to do it,” she said. “But nobody can ever know for sure what’s ahead. If you have a part of yourself that you really believe in, you owe it to yourself and the people that love you not to give up.”

Dan Ingram, WABC, WCBS-FM New York

“As a disk jockey, I have been known for having an “ear”. The many times I have seen Lainie perform prove that she continues to fill my “ear” with incredibly good taste, superb performance, presentation and a sophisticated sensual delivery. Go! See! Hear!! Enjoy!!!!

Bob Edwards, XM Radio

“With the cool of her native Minnesota and the grown-up sass of her present New York, Lainie Cooke swings.”

New York Post

“Tonight Lainie Cooke returns with a straightforward jazz intonation and good, clear tones. But most of all there’s a luscious optimism surrounding her…Cooke’s ballads celebrate the joy of love and not its lack.”

LA Daily News

“When a singer can cut through the ambience that overcomes the jetliners, you are talking about a powerful pair of long…such a joyful noise…She can hold a note–clear and piercing–until the vibrato emerges and at no time does the intonation waver. It is full-bodied, even in falsetto–something she proved as she romped through Aint Misbehavin’, improvising with all the poise of an instrumentalist.”


“Cooke exhibited smooth control and a jazzy way with phrasing. Radiating poise at every juncture, she has an especially good upper register, which she uses sparing but to good dramatic effect.”

LA Jazz Scene

“Lainie Cooke at Chadney’s…clearly, on ballds, the expressive singer excels…subtle improvising a little reminiscent of Anita O’Day and she has a strong sense of humor.”

Music Connection

“Cooke sticks mostly to standard adding a personal touch with her phrasing. She is a diminutive professional who husky, strong voice is best featured on up-temp tunes. She has an impressive upper register which she employ to good effect in a style at times resembling Ella’s.”

Lainie Cooke Holiday Concert Celebration: Dec 3rd event review Posted Dec 8, 2004 at 7:28 PM

Her Band: Roland Barber, trombone Tedd Firth, piano Martin Wind, bass Peter Grant, drums

There’s something to be said about talking to strangers, because that’s how I heard about this gig. The trombone player, Mr. Roland Barber, caught wind of the Jazz Group’s conversation at our meetup back in November, and he suggested I check out Lainie Cooke and I’m glad I did.

After a cold wait outside of The Triad, surrounded by what was obviously the faithful Lainie fan, we were ushered to the third floor into what was a deep (but not particularly wide) club. I was one table away from the stage, sharing a table with two gentlemen who, like myself, had never heard Lainie sing live.

The gig didn’t start at 8:30 PM, but when it did start it was with a somewhat slow jog with Ellington into “It Don’t mean a thing” (If it Ain’t got that swing). A very nice bass solo started and out came Lainie.

First impression is, without a doubt she is diminutive, but over the evening it was obvious her tiny body holds a big voice. The night was called a “Holiday Concert Celebration” and was thematic of holidays throughout the year. Lainie made this fun for her friends and general audience as she took us through some of the most popular holidays, including ones she didn’t particular like. Fun, yet powerful as she started with “Living the Life I Love”. Something about her inflection put me in the mind of Carmen McRae and I was delighted with her between song chatter.

Next up was a completely swinging version of “To Life, Lachaim!” as she covered Chanukah first and then surprised us with a play on words by doing a Billie Holiday song, “When a woman loves a man.” I liked the trombone player’s chops on this one, and Lainie made the song her own; no B.S. karaoke styling of Billie, (thank you very much!)

She then moved onto Christmas doing an absolutely fantastic version of Frank Foster’s “Shiny Stockings” but with entirely different lyrics that had me grinning with delight. (Basically, the premise is that regular stockings on the mantel is a waste of time when you could impress Santa wearing a nice pair of shiny stockings.) In that moment, I was duly impressed with how enchantingly charming she is as a live performer, singing or talking to the audience.

She had a hilarious, laugh-out-loud bit of chatter, wherein she makes it crystal clear how New Year’s Eve is, to put it politely, an acquired taste and not one of her favorite holidays, and then launched into one of my favorite New Year’s Eve songs (although an unsurprising choice) “What are you doing, New Year’s Eve”. There was a robust piano solo, with the entire song having a bossa nova back beat that was an unusual but nice touch. The rest of the quartet (piano, drums, bass) framed Lainie and the trombone, making a nice segue for her to start swinging again.

Valentine’s Day was next (another funny bit of patter for this, as she espoused her displeasure with a holiday that points out when you don’t have a significant other), with “Answer me my love”, bluesy in tone. Roland with the skillful use of a mute made the trombone weep in sympathy (wa, wa, wa) with the sad lyrics.

Easter was up next with “Easter Parade”, where the piano player got to shine and the bass player went from his fingers to the bow and wowed the crowd. Covering Mother’s and Father’s day in one song (which turns out to be the song she does every show) “Bye, Bye Black Bird” was next as a sentimental reminder of how she sang with her mother. She put in some clean and melodic scatting on this one, as intro for a trombone solo. A nice and tight drum solo followed, that hinted that the drummer could blow you away effortlessly, but just wanted to impress you a little.

The 4th of July was up next with a medley of “It’s a grand ole flag” and “Yankee Doodle Dandy” that should have had one cringing – but Lainie can do “Broadway Jazz” effortlessly, even if she doesn’t have a 20 piece orchestra backing her up. I thought to myself she reminded me of a clean and sparkling Liza, and in retrospect my notes revealed she’d covered a bunch of tunes Garland had done too (Easter Parade, and the fact she ended on Christmas doing “Have Yourself a Merry, Merry Christmas”).

Lainie went out big with “Let it Snow” and I made a mental note that I’d be looking out for more concerts from her in 2005.

I give the evening an 8 out of 10 with points off for the bit of an ouch on the bill (15gratuity tax on the 2 drink minimum) and the 20 minute wait in the cold to get in.

Cheers, Deidre NYC Jazz Group Organizer

Back to top


Lainie Cooke: Speaking to the Heart

When Lainie Cooke sings, the heart sinks in poetry made music; air seems to stop to avoid interrupting the flowing of such a magical, beautiful voice. She fills the barely-noticeable silence between notes with a voice that caresses the heart. Her life has been a jazz-bound adventure inspired by an early need to entertain others, landing her in New York City at a very young age… Read Interview at AllAboutJazz.com

Back to top