Irene Atman in Concert

Irene Atman
By Bill McDonald

While not yet a well known entity in the local Toronto scene, jazz vocalist Irene Atman made a substantial stride in that direction with her concert last Friday evening at the Jane Mallett Theatre.

Born in Toronto, Atman was influenced very early, listening to her father’s old records stored in a box in the fruit cellar. “Ella Fitzgerald, Billie Holiday, Frank Sinatra, Tony Bennett, Doris Day -all of the greats. I just loved them”.

Her professional career began at 19, while studying history at the University of Toronto. During that time, Atman sang with the Stan Hiltz Orchestra, recorded with the Boss Brass, and performed with Tony Bennett. She also performed with local stalwarts Guido Basso, Dave Young, Terry Clarke, and Peter Appleyard.

In 2008, she focussed on promoting her self-titled debut CD release and toured Canada and the United States. Along the way, she also made stops in Australia and Japan.

In 2009, Atman relocated to New York City to record her second CD, “New York Rendezvous”. On this recording she is backed by noted NYC musicians Frank Kimbrough (piano), Jay Anderson (bass), Matt Wilson (drums), and Joel Frahm (tenor and soprano saxophones).
In this homecoming concert, she was accompanied by Canadian A-List musicians, Dave Young on bass, Guido Basso on horn (both Order of Canada recipients), Robbi Botos on piano, Rob Piltch on guitar, and Ethan Ardelli on drums.

The performance of predominantly jazz standards began with a gentle swing version of Shall We Dance followed by “Taking a Chance on Love”. In the next offering, “My Foolish Heart”, Guido Basso came on stage and the already high musical atmosphere was set for the evening.

The concert continued to deliver a number of highlights from both Atmans vocals and all of the musicians. On “My Romance”, Atman stepped away, allowing each of the musicians to stretch out on their solos. In a Latin flavoured version of “Charade”, both Piltch and the always imaginative Botos delivered great solos. Atman performed a wonderful, Spanish influenced version of “Shadow of Your Smile” with acoustic accompaniment by Piltch. The first set closed with an up tempo version of “What a Little Moonlight Can Do” with Botos clearly demonstrating that rapid fire tempos and melodic improvisational lines can co-exist.

The second set included a New Orleans blues version of “Glory of Love”, paying homage to her two year stint with the Delta Queen Steamboat Company. The mood of this tune was captured perfectly with Basso’s trumpet. This was followed by a sensitive vocal of Burt Bachrach’s “Alfie”. The regular set ended with “Somos Novios” with Piltch again setting the Spanish backdrop. An encore of “That’s All” ended an evening highly appreciated by an enthusiastic audience.

While traces of her jazz vocalist influences could be heard, Atman has developed her own unique voice. To quote Harvey Siders of JazzTimes, “for a change, Canada sent a wave of WARM air south of the border in the person of Irene Atman”.
Let’s hope she receives the proper recognition at home as well.

For more information on Irene Atman, including her upcoming appearances, visit her website at www.ireneatman.com.

Both of her CD releases “Irene Atman” and “New York Rendezvous” are available through Apple iTunes, CD Baby, and Amazon.com