UCLA ethnomusicology graduate and New Orleans native, Sandra Booker was the first vocal student to receive the Julian Cannonball Adderley Memorial Scholarship. Since then, she has taught vocal workshops at universities like Cal State Northridge and Santa Monica Community College, as well as at various high schools. Professionally, you’ve probably heard her voice on Coca-Cola and Ralph Lauren television commercials. All of this is to lay the groundwork that Booker is the real deal. An artist with a sure sense of line and impeccable intonation, which is a given for any vocalist regularly working the California studio scene, Booker delights and astounds throughout.
When Love Happens, The Loving Day Concert, her second CD as a leader, was recorded live at the Madrid Theatre in June of 2009. Sounding at times like Angela Bofill with the soulfulness of Sarah Vaughn and improvisational ability of Ella Fitzgerald, Booker proves herself to be just as capable a composer as vocalist. Of the ten tracks, six are by Booker with “Over And Over Again” being the standout selection. It’s a sweet medium tempo swinger allowing her to open it up and wail, as well as breath-fully intone, a graceful line when the lyric demands. The abrupt ending, which is a bit disconcerting, must have been due to something unfortunate happening at the event.
On “The Melody Is You” the Carmen McRae side of this young vocalist comes out. No jazz singer before or since McRae has been able to make an audience laugh with one line and then immediately make that same audience cry by the poignancy of the following phrase. Booker shows this ability as well. Treating the song like a personal statement and not an over worn standard, Booker makes it her own with slight cracks in her voice at just the right moment to express longing as well as full bodied swagger at moments of firm affirmation; she truly “gets” the song for the feelings it’s meant to express.
Booker is backed, in part, by a quartet featuring the expertly wonderful piano playing of Tamir Hendelman and the thoughtfully light comping of Larry Koonse on guitar. Together, this ensemble feels and empathetically reacts as well as set the tone. All in all, this recording puts on full display a wonderful artist who deserves more attention.