The long awaited follow-up CD to Sophie Milman’s 2004 self-titled debut CD, “Make Someone Happy” is a very good sophomore effort.
“Make Someone Happy” features a very eclectic mix of songs, ranging from classic jazz standards such as Van Heusen and Burke’s “Like Someone in Love” and Rodgers and Hammerstein’s “It Might as Well Be Spring” to contemporary covers such as Stevie Wonder’s “Rocket Love” and the Guess Who’s “Undun” (coincidentally also covered by Kurt Elling on his 2007 release “Nightmoves.”) Actually, it’s her version of “Undun” which is probably my favorite track on her album. Interestingly, the legendary Randy Bachman of the Guess Who was invited and accepted to play on this song for Sophie. I also thoroughly enjoyed “It Might as Well Be Spring” – Sophie swings joyously on this one. However, I felt her version of “Fever” doesn’t hold up to the original recording by Peggy Lee. Sophie’s version has a sense of being over-arranged with too many tempo changes which in effect results in a loss of the bluesy grit which is so satisfying on the original version.
Sophie Milman has a very pleasing low, bassy, and sultry voice – very suitable for singing jazz. And I appreciate the confident manner in which she approaches each song. However, she does have a tendency to end her phrases with an overused playful vibrato which is somewhat anti-jazz in style but still very effective in a Marilyn Monroe-esque manner.
Sophie Milman has a very interesting and eclectic background. She emigrated from Russia to Israel with her family when she was 7 years old. Then at the age of 16 they moved again, this time to Canada, to seek a new life. So although she lacks musical training, I think it’s these diverse life experiences coupled by her multilingual talents which makes Sophie interesting to listen to – and in the end answers the ageless jazz-worthy and jazz-defining question, “Does she have something interesting and worthwhile to say?” I think Sophie’s “Make Someone Happy” answers that question with a resounding “yes!”
Concerning her supporting musicians, I was hoping to learn more about their backgrounds on either her CD liner notes or on her website, however there doesn’t seem to be much written about them in either place. I’m not sure if they are long time collaborators of hers, perhaps traveling on the road and performing live with her, or if they were hired specifically as in-studio musicians for this CD’s recording. That being said, I think the band sounds really tight, showcases their improvisational chops, and supports Sophie’s vocals very well.
Sophie candidly writes in her liner notes “I have to admit that, when I made my first record, I knew very little about music.” To her credit Sophie is a very talented and natural born singer so it will be very interesting to see how this young ingénue’s craft evolves and develops as she does learn more about music, and in particular jazz, in the years to come. So much of great jazz singing is predicated on one’s life experiences and the ability to tell a story about the human experience. With time, and her already fascinating world travels, I’m sure Sophie can encapsulate this. It would be interesting to see Sophie attempt in her future works some of the hallmark qualities of sophisticated jazz singing, such as singing behind the beat more, playing more with space and silence, incorporating more surprising improvisational phrases, and swinging – hard. And it would be interesting to see if Sophie might embrace scatting, vocalese, instrument playing, composing, and/or perhaps even arranging in her future endeavors. I found Sophie’s singing and her CD to be very pleasing. It made me want to see her perform live and I look forward to her next project. I think Sophie has the talent and potential to be around for a very long time.
By: Jenifer Dravillas
Biography: Sophie Milman is the 23-year-old Russian born Jazz singing sensation who reached #1 on iTunes Canada, France, Japan and in the U.S.A twice since the release of her album. Sophie is well on her way to becoming an international star, already a household name in Canada already where her debut was breakthrough jazz album of the year. It held steady in the Top 5 best sellers list according to Neilson-Soundscan, alongside international stars Diana Krall, Michael Buble, and Madeline Peroulx. Sophie reached #12 on the U.S. Billboard Jazz album charts as well!
Currently selling out venue after venue on her North American tour and fresh from a stunning duet performance with Aaron Neville at the Montreal International Jazz Festival, it all started for Sophie in the Ural Mountains of Russia, where she was born. Her family migrated to Israel at the collapse of communism shortly afterward and relocated to Canada a few years later. Little remained from their upheaval other than some family heirlooms and a cherished vinyl record collection, which provided the music that is now the foundation for Sophie’s love of jazz.
Sophie Milman’s formative years were spent growing up in Israel where she began listening to Jazz intently which led to her deep appreciation for artists such as, Ella Fitzgerald, Louis Armstrong, Oscar Peterson, Stevie Wonder, George Gershwin, Duke Ellington, Ray Charles and many more. At the tender age of 15, Sophie and her family were uprooted yet again to Canada. It was through her love of music that Sophie was able to adjust to her new surroundings, and her introduction to the rich and diverse musical landscape of Toronto’s cultural scene paved the way.
‘I love Toronto. I love the fact that you can find every type of music in this city. I love Toronto’s openness to new styles and ideas. It creates such an eclectic and rich musical and cultural palette.’
Sophie always loved to sing but her professional career as a singer came about accidentally. Her initial thoughts of entering the jazz world professionally came about when she was encouraged to sit in on a local jazz series called Real Divas. Canadian jazz impresario/musician/producer, Bill King coordinated the show and invariably got the ball rolling on Sophie’s imminent career. The response was overwhelming and after seeing Sophie perform just a few times, Linus Entertainment President and CEO Geoff Kulawick offered her a recording contract. The rest, as the saying goes, is history. Kerry Doole from Tandem Magazine describes Sophie’s style:
‘A strong and versatile voice and drop-dead gorgeous.’
Her debut self-titled CD Sophie Milman, which earned her a Juno nomination for Vocal Jazz album of the Year in 2006, is an array of Jazz standards and contemporary new compositions. Produced skillfully by the aforementioned Bill King, and Danny Greenspoon, it brings together the maturity and originality young Sophie offers as a Jazz singer.
Geoff Chapman of the Toronto Star says of Sophie:
‘Sophie Milman’s brilliant new self-titled CD was one of several Canadian recording highlights in 2005.’
Headlining sold out 500 capacity venues on her first tour this summer, Sophie and her band performed at every major Canadian jazz festival, including the prestigious Festival International Du Jazz Du Montreal – which sold out two months in advance. According to Elle Canada, Sophie is:
‘The Real Deal.’
This beautiful and critically acclaimed artist has graced the cover of New York’s Jerusalem Report and Forward newspaper, Voir Magazine in Montreal, Lifestyles Magazine, and Klublife Magazine in Toronto. Sophie has it all, she is not just beautiful and talented but well educated, fluent in four languages and juggling her career with studying commerce at the University of Toronto. Things can only get bigger and better for Sophie with the international release of her album by KOCH Entertainment for the USA and JVC in Japan where she will be on tour in December 2006!