Joan Bow-Miller has a great voice, well trained from her early roots singing gospel in the choir, to paying her dues with soul, R&B, blues and jazz. She brings a taste of all these musical genres to her new CD Variations. The liner notes indicate that the title Variations refers to the different stages Bow-Miller has gone through in her life. She has managed to add various styles of music to the CD, rather than blending her musical influences and creating her own style. When singing the standards her influences are front and centre, emotions, energy and a spirit that makes listening to her smooth, silky voice a pleasurable experience.
The first track on the CD "Ain’t No Shame" has a great jazzy feel, opening with a tenor saxophone (smooth jazz) intro that blends with Bow-Miller’s voice, as smooth as silk. Bow-Miller opens the door to this song in style. Her voice is deep, smooth and polished; she puts out serious emotion in this song and draws the listener in.
"Grandma’s Hands" a classic by Bill Withers is performed here at an up-tempo, the band plays some nice back up to Bow-Miller’s vocal interpretation. Scott Barnhill on Tenor Sax lets loose with some good fills. Don E. Beck plays Hammond B3 organ, a nice touch and mixed just right to support Bow-Miller’s singing.
The Sam Cooke song "Bring It On Home To Me" is a tune that just flies, with Bow-Miller driving the band hard and setting the bar hi. Lead guitarist Calvin Keyes pulls off some nice licks, the rhythm section is cookin, led by Don E. Beck on B3 organ with some thunderous chords.
"Fine & Mellow," classic Billie Holiday in a Bow-Miller style performed wonderfully. A 12 bar blues, nice piano playing in a boogie woogie style. All the players on this piece have a great feel for the music. A song with a similar feel is "Say You’ll Be Mine" words by Janet Cole-Valdez, music by Mel Nelson. A slow blues with some stirring vocal lines, backed up by Barnhill on tenor sax. Bow-Miller has that ability or style of using her vocal phrasing to sound similar to a horn. A class act and a beautiful talent, some very nice singing and playing on this project.