From "LA Jazz Scene", January 2006:

PIANIST/VOCALIST GAEA SCHELL'S QUARTET AT STEAMERS

When any of us are searching for a knowledgeable and smoothly entertaining performer, Gaea Schell would definitely be an answer. Her vocalizing is strong, with precise enunciation in her delivery. Her piano playing is beautiful. She is also a composer and performed several of her original tunes this particular late November evening.

Originally from Alberta, Canada, Schell's music training began classically. Later, as a teenage saxophonist, she fell in love with Charlie Parker recordings while playing with big bands. Her jazz piano influences were Hank Jones, Red Garland, Wynton Kelly, Oscar Peterson and the sublimely innovative Bill Evans. Schell's quartet included alto saxophonist Carol Chaikin, bassist Bill Markus and Ryan Doyle on the drums. These musicians worked well, playing very cohesively together.

Starting with a delightful trio version of Frank Loesser's "If I Were A Bell," the evening was off to a good beginning. A serene portrayal of "How Deep Is The Ocean" brought Chakin's smooth alto sax into play. Her sound is reminiscent of Paul Desmond's magical playing. Schell's close harmonic chords shone throughout this well-known standard. "Ledges," a bebop jazz original by Schell, has all the flair of her excellent composing skills; her "Contemplation" is a pretty waltz with a lot of soul in its musical structure.

Most of us were big fans of the late, great Shirley Horn, including Schell. She dedicated "Once I Loved," in bossa format to Horn. Her voice was very clean and soulful Chakinís alto added a lot of vibrant energy, with her excellent showmanship on stage. Markusí bass work is extraordinary, especially his arco solos, while Doyle's drumming is tasty and precise. The audience was a "listening audience" and showed appreciative rapport with the music.

Schell is a remarkable talent. She picked great selections, such as "Joy Spring," "Everything I Love" and the all-time favorite, "Body and Soul." Schell's voice was sweet on the Rodgers & Hart gem, "This Can't Be Love." I saw only part of the second set, but really enjoyed the quartet's rendition of Wayne Shorter's "FeeFiFoFum." Chakin played flute with fantastic changes on another Schell original, "Still." Gaea Schell's CD, Dream Away, has a fine array of both her originals and beautiful standards and was recorded recently with excellent players, including longtime drumming great, Albert "Tootie" Heath. See Schell's website: www.gaeaschell.com. She is a rising talent and will be very jazz worthy for a long time to come.

-Glenn A. Mitchell