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REVIEWS/PRESS


“For All We Know” is delivered in a heartfelt manner with Schell’s voice bare in its honesty, and her piano sweetly sad and tender", Brad Walseth, from JazzChicago CD review

"Schell pulls in the listener with a minimalist approach that shines with interpretative sensibility rather than pure musicality", Andrea Canter, jazzpolice.com

"Schell's playful voice has an easiness to it, like a soft, Brazilian white-sand beach at sunrise" OC Register

Gaea Schell’s beautiful jazz trio graced the stage at Spazio’s on a recent mid-November Sunday evening. She had special guest, lengendary drummer, Albert "Tootie" Heath and very competent bassist, Chris Colangelo, with her. Schell is not only a pianist and vocalist, but an inventive composer as well.

This is a smooth and solid trio. Schell has two CDs out and did many of her trio’s tunes from them this evening. They started off with "Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea," a famous Harold Arlen song. After Schell did the first choruses, I noticed immediately, the illustrious solo capabilities of master drummer, "Tootie" Heath. His patterns were light and time-diversified, always coming back perfectly after four, eight or twelve bar breaks. He comes from famous Heath Brothers: Percy, on bass; Jimmy, on tenor sax; and Albert "Tootie" at the drums. They set a lot of history over several past decades.

Colangelo is a well-seasoned bassist who has performed and recorded with some of the best in the business. His playing shows consistent perfection. His solos are always well thought out.

Benny Golson’s "Whisper Not" was a cool tune played. It is a soulful pick in most situations. Schell sang one of her own compositions, an original ¾ waltz - the title tune from her first CD, Dream Away, a pretty tune. She enunciates extremely well and has a laid back refreshing style in her delivery, as she additionally showed in "I Should Care." Heath demonstrated some excellent and relaxed cymbal work during this tune besides his and Colangelo’s fine solos.

Schell’s second newest CD, For All We Know, shows an even better settling and musical maturity. The trio played her original, "Conclusion," a gorgeous ballad that can whisk you away if you close your eyes and take you to a special place or a journey in some hidden place.

"I Thought About You" was played in a nice swinging mode. Gaea Schell sang this also behind her own beautiful piano playing. Other favorites – all splendidly arranged and performed were: "The Nearness of You," Jerome Kern’s, "Nobody Else but Me," and "Lullaby of the Leaves." Heath continued to astonish the audience with his graceful and implicit work on cymbals and unique drumming breaks.

Gaea Schell hails from Alberta, Canada and began playing the piano at age five. Later she took up flute and saxophone and then discovered the jazz of Charlie Parker, causing her to change her musical direction. Some earlier musical influences are Hank Jones, Wynton Kelly, and Red Garland, just to name a few. She gained musical experience in Portland OR and also worked and taught in NYC before later coming to Los Angeles. Her website, www.gaeaschell.com, reveals her current activities and schedules. Well worth seeing and hearing.

-Glenn A. Mitchell, LA Jazz Scene, January 2007

CD review from writer Andrea Canter

Gaea Schell CD Release Celebrations in Los Angeles Contributed by Andrea Canter, Contributing Editor jazzpolice.com Tuesday, 06 February 2007

For All We Know

Subtlty, vibe, swing, acoustic warmth—all aptly describe the feel of For All We Know. Schell’s connection to Bill Evans, Hank Jones, Red Garland et al. is clear, yet she also evokes more modern lyricists such as Fred Hersch, Kenny Werner, and particularly Lynne Arriale with her masterful blending of an Evans-touched elegance with a Monkish rhythmic playfulness. For the most part, the tracks—7 instrumental, 5 vocal - are relatively short, featuring few long sequences of keyboard improvisations but more than enough to display her chops without getting bogged down in the adventure. Vocally, hers is not a powerful voice, rather thin but engaging with a Stacey Kentish lightness although the style is totally different. Where Kent’s charm is in her girlish swing, Schell pulls in the listener with a minimalist approach that shines with interpretative sensibility rather than pure musicality.

But unlike other pianist/vocalists who are competent at the keyboard but clearly in their element in song (Diana Krall, Karrin Allyson), Gaea Schell is competent vocally and brilliant as composer/instrumentalist. With a luxurious touch and firm sense of swing, the passion seems closer to the surface on her original compositions as “Yes,” “Conclusion,” “Contemplation,” “Ledges” and “Still”—together these would make a dazzling suite. “Yes” is filled with some rhythmic changes, gentle but enough to make you listen; Colangelo’s bass solo is full of quirky starts and stops, supported by Heath’s feathery brushes and Schell’s light phrases. “Conclusion” starts off with an arco bass intro, moving along as an introspective exploration worthy of Fred Hersch while Colangelo provides the perfect blend of pathos and pulse. Like the next movement (though a separated by two tracks), “Contemplation” is marked by Colangelo’s outstanding bass work and Heath’s tingling cymbals, while the piano solo sparkles with exquisite interweaving lines.

“Ledges” has a contagious melody and rhythm, featuring a thumpy pulsating solo from Colangelo, Gaea’s left hand serving as a second walking bass, and Heath conducting a master class in brushwork. The pianist here recalls Evans with a more idiosyncratic sense of time and space. “Still” is more introspective, Heath switching his concentration to figures on the toms, which fit elegantly with the basslines and piano. Schell here is as melodically elegant as Brad Mehldau without falling into self conscious rumination.

The remaining all-instrumental tracks are more up-tempo. On JP Maramba’s “We’ve Heard It All Before,” Gaea swings like Hank Jones with a country accent; Heath lightly the snare and cymbals while maintaining a deep pulse on the bass drum, and Colangelo walks all over with conversational phrases—maybe we haven’t heard it all before! “Taking a Chance on Love” (more often a vocal) provides an upbeat—and short (2 ½ minute) ending. Schell is not taking a chance on her music here—she’s confident and sure, setting a brisk tempo with deconstruction of time and melody after the first brief chorus. The vocal tracks are all nevertheless fine displays of Gaea’s keyboard skill as well as opportunities to become acquainted with her laid-back song stylings. On “My Foolish Heart” she cuts the phrases down to the bare essentials with a spare sultriness; nothing lingers except the piano, the effect almost conversational although the framework of melody remains. The piano solo is more interesting in contrast, filling in where the voice left space, yet also using clipped phrases on the melodic line mirroring the vocal. “I Thought About You” features a conversation between vocal and piano in the first verse, Schell barely singing some of the lines. On piano, she creates a nice left-hand ostinato to introduce the second verse (which will also reappear on the out chorus), the trio heating up to a swinging rhythm, heroes Hank Jones and Red Garland are not far removed. The longest track at over 8 minutes features some zippy trades with Heath who makes the most of his brushes.

The trio provides a robust introduction to “I’m Old Fashioned,” the bass and drums swinging hard while on vocal Schell offers some hesitations in phrasing that keep it a bit on the edge. The piano is anything but old fashioned here, with some mildly dissonant notes keeping it slightly off kilter—again Schell the pianist mirroring Schell the vocalist, her strong left hand suggesting it she could break into stride at any moment. Most effective among the vocal tracks is Jobim’s “Once I Loved,” melodic lines sailing over a more abstract comping that is more post bop than samba. Colangelo’s basswork here is simply stunning. The title track brings the vocals to a close with a wistful interpretation.

An excerpt from the liner notes of Gaea's recent release For All We Know, written by Scott Yanow: www.scottyanow.com

Ever since she moved out to Los Angeles in 2003, Gaea Schell has become a very significant part of the Southern California jazz scene. Her piano playing, though based in such favorites as Wynton Kelly and Oscar Peterson, is quite original within the modern mainstream of jazz. She is also an inventive composer and an appealing singer with a laidback style.

While Gaea Schell has appeared in a variety of settings since relocating to Los Angeles, she is frequently heard at the head of a trio. One of her very best lineups is her group with bassist Chris Colangelo and drummer Albert "Tootie" Heath, a unit that clearly has chemistry. The subtle interplay between the three musicians throughout the set is a constant joy and it captures how the group sounds live in a club.

Due to their familiarity with each other's playing and ability to connect, the trio recorded the entire program in a single six-hour session, a particularly impressive feat when one realizes that half the selections are recent originals.


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