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Jill Tracy


Country of origin:

U.S.

Type of music generally:

Alternative, evocative/eclectic

Status:

Most recent full release, Silver Smoke, Star of Night (seasonal, 2012); most recent full release of non-seasonal material, The Bittersweet Constraint (2008)

See also:

Jill Tracy's site

Comparisons:

Marianne Faithfull, Rasputina, Dresden Dolls, Nick Cave

Covers/own material:

Own material

General comments:

Jill Tracy is the queen of the universe. The CDs arrived yesterday morning and I have listened to nothing else, literally...my GOD...I already have a new member of my pantheon, and she's about to kick a few folks out of the way and claim a seat near the top of the hierarchy.
     Jill isn't that kind of cabaret you were thinking of...Jill isn't on the verge of bursting out in German...she's previous to all of that, she's writing from, like, 1894, rather than 1926...or whatever. Hmm...it's more just an influence of jazz that's upbeat enough to be swingy, which is something cabaret also has...but she's no Ute Lemper, to reference a recent thread. (John Drummond)

Stunning cabaret, dark stuff on piano. Jill Tracy is a dark goddess writing absinthe-flavoured songs. (stjarnell@yahoo.com)

I love Jill Tracy! I bought her CD because of the talk about her here and I fell in love with it...as did my husband. She's fabulous. (amy@ecalos.com)

Comments about live performance:

Jill Tracy was next, a San Francisco-based artist who had brought two members of her group, the Malcontent Orchestra. I found it odd that she played an electric piano when there was a Yamaha Grand sitting there right behind her, but whatever works, I guess. She was accompanied by two dapper men in suits, one on drums and another on upright bass. She's basically the cabaret singer who would greet you at the gates of Hell: there is definitely a gleefully evil twist to her lyrics, and I enjoyed her set quite a bit. (meth@smoe.org)

Recommended first album:

Diabolical Streak is just so evocative of mood, it's so perfectly produced, and the art direction and all of it. (John Drummond)

Recordings:


Quintessentially Unreal (the early piano demos)

Release info:

1995—Sleight of Hand—SH-0045Q

Availability:

cdbaby.com

Ecto priority:

Highly recommended

Group members:

Jill Tracy—solo piano and vocals

Guest artists:

None

Produced by:

Jill Tracy

Comments:

Her solo-piano-and-voice album Quintessentially Unreal is absolutely incredible...this woman plays so beautifully, it's so inspiring to see somebody kicking ass at the style I'm trying so hard to get right. (John Drummond)

Diabolical Streak

Release info:

1999—Sleight of Hand—SH-03732
Reissued 2004—125 Records—125-009

Availability:

Online at cdbaby.com, amazon.com and 125records.com

Ecto priority:

Highly recommended

Group members:

The Malcontent Orchestra:
     Jill Tracy—grand piano, vocals
     Alexander Kort—double bass, violoncello
     Daniel Baer—violin
     Eric Gebow—drums, percussion, timpani
     Nadie Whitfield
     Eenor—yaili tambour

Guest artists:

None

Produced by:

Jill Tracy with Christian Jones

Comments:

Jill had a major hand in the production, she and an engineer did all of the sound, and she did all of the art direction herself...it's neat, the first album is almost confessional in its lyrical tone, whereas the second one is much more playful and concerned with storytelling...but they're both so amazing...the way she downplayed her piano playing on the second album in comparison with the first is also shockingly good, in that the second album's work is still ridiculously evocative, but still very much on the DL in contrast to the absolutely mathematics-complex lines on the first one. (John Drummond)

While there are a couple of songs on this I really like, it's all so similar it's overkill. I'm not a huge fan of caberet-style music, which is what this is. She's probably the most obvious heir of Brecht/Weill's wicked lyrical cabaret-style music. Which doesn't mean it just doesn't get a bit much after a while. I can't listen to it all the way through, but I like it a track or two at a time. (Neile)

Fans of Rasputina and Kristeen Young will like this album. It's theatrical, delightfully strange and lovely. She plays the piano and sings in a seductive whisper. At times the songs remind me of Kate Bush's 'Coffee Homeground' and 'Hammer Horror.' (stjarnell@yahoo.com)

Jill Tracy I really like, perhaps not enough to place in the top 10 but she has a comfortable position just below. (afries@zip.com.au)


Into the Land of Phantoms (The Nosferatu Score)

Release info:

2002—Cabinet 45—C4502

Availability:

Online at cdbaby.com and amazon.com

Ecto priority:

Recommended for fans of eerie instrumental music

Group members:

The Malcontent Orchestra:
     Jill Tracy—grand piano
     Alexander Kort—double bass, violoncello
     Daniel Baer—violin
     Randy Odell—marimba, drums, percussion

Guest artists:

None

Produced by:

Alex Nahas

Comments:

Into the Land of Phantoms is Jill Tracy and the Malcontent Orchestra's original instrumental score for F.W. Murnau's 1922 vampire film Nosferatu. It was recorded live in San Francisco in 2001. (trow@interbridge.com)

The Bittersweet Constrain

Release info:

2008

Availability:

Wide

Ecto priority:

Highly recommended

Group members:

Jill Tracy—piano, vocals

Guest artists:

Randy Odell—drums, percussion, metals
Alex Nahas—Chapman stick, electric bass
Daniel Fabricant—contrabass
Tony Cross—violin, viola, harmonium
Erica Mulkey (Unwoman)—cello
Nadine Whitfield—bassoon
Ralph Carney—bass flute, bass clarinet
Kenny Annis—sarod

Produced by:

Alex Nahas

Comments:

One of the best albums of the year. (christina_skov@hotmail.com, wpm@value.net, timjy@sbcglobal.net)

Silver Smoke, Star of Night

Release info:

2012—Projekt Records

Availability:

Wide

Ecto priority:

Highly recommended

Group members:

Jill Tracy—piano, vocals

Guest artists:

Randy Odell—drums, percussion, metals, antique bells, chimes, toys
Paul Mercer—violin
Kenny Annis—contrabass
John Anaya—ebow

Produced by:

Jill Tracy with John Anaya

Comments:

Smoky, shadowy, shimmering—these are some of the words that come to mind to describe Jill Tracy's new seasonal offering. It's a more contemplative approach to Christmas, with older carols (both vocal and instrumental) and a focus on mystery and darkness (both literal and metaphorical). Exquisitely done. (JoAnn Whetsell)

Further info:

Jill Tracy appeared on the Artists For Literacy compilation CD, Songs Inspired By Literature, alongside Aimee Mann, Tom Waits and Bruce Springsteen. Her animated short film, The Fine Art of Poisoning, directed by Bill Domonkos, has won close to 30 national awards at film festivals.


Thanks to Sue Trowbridge and JoAnn Whetsell for work on this entry.

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DISCLAIMER: Comments and reviews in the Ectophiles' Guide are excerpted from the ecto mailing list or volunteered by members of the list. They are the opinions of music enthusiasts, not professional music critics.

Entry last updated 2014-02-24 00:31:34.
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