Elena Gilliam/Michael Le Van
By Scott Yanow, jazz journalist/historian,
"Then Another Turns" Shade of Blue Records
Elena Gilliam has long been a Los Angeles-area legend, a powerful and very expressive yet subtle jazz singer. She has performed for many years at local clubs and, although her fame has not stretched much beyond Southern California, she is well worth discovering.
On Then Another Turns, her first recording in a decade, Elena Gilliam is joined by the sensitive and swinging pianist Michael Le Van (whose trio is sometimes reminiscent of that of Bill Evans), either David Enos or Bruce Lett on bass, Paul Kreibich or John Ferraro on drums, and occasionally trumpeter Tony Guerrero and tenor-saxophonist David Moody.
The set begins with “Then Another Turns” which was composed by Le Van with lyrics by the late Bill Montemer. Ms. Gilliam builds up her vocal slowly before displaying quite a bit of power at the performance’s conclusion. Next is a medium-tempo version of “Misty” that really cooks, has fine piano and bass solos, and a closing shouting vocal that one could imagine Ernestine Anderson singing. Stevie Wonder’s “All in Love Is Fair” is given a slow version that climaxes with an impressive final note that rings out endlessly.
Every selection on this CD is enjoyable including an uptempo “Softly As In A Morning Sunrise” which gives the instrumentalists including the two horn players an opportunity to stretch out, the lowdown “Backwater Blues” (during which Ms. Gilliam really preaching the blues), and a duet with Le Van on “My Romance.” The memorable outing concludes with an uptempo “Cheek To Cheek” (highlighted by some fine scat-singing), a forceful and hard-driving “Get Out Of Town,” and a quietly dramatic “I’ll Be Seeing You.”
Elena Gilliam deserves to be much better known. On Then Another Turns, she has made her definitive statement.
Elena Gilliam & Michael Le Van
“Then Another Turns” – Shade of Blue Records
By Dee Dee McNeil
Aug 7, 2019
“Elena Gilliams has a rich tone enhanced by a range that can soar on tunes like “All In Love Is Fair,” composed by Stevie Wonder.…Elena offers a powerful performance on this challenging song. In the same breath, she can gently caress a lyric like Michael Le Van’s composition, “Then Another Turns” with words by Bill Montemer. Elena tenderly uses her alto range to deliver Michael’s original composition. ,,,She shows her strength in the ‘swing’ department on “Misty” with David Enos pumping his bass in a brisk walk. Michael Le Van takes a bright piano solo during this familiar Erroll Garner song. Le Van has a deft touch on the keys, shining in the spotlight, but sensitive and considerate as an accompanist. He and Elena Gilliam have a musical magic between them that is happily capture on this recording. … They fit together naturally, like butter and bread.”
Festival Crowd Well Rewarded
By Bill Kohlhaase, L.A. Times
Sept. 24, 1990
“(Newport Beach) Opening in the amphitheater, the Irvine-based husband and wife team of Elena and George Gilliam presented ballads and cool bossa rhythms to a small, sunbaked crowd. Elena’s breathy, romantic vocal approach worked well on a tune entitled, “Seekin,” and she took a too brief turn at scatting on “Do Nothin’ Till You Hear From me.” Her phrasing on “If I Had You,” a tune she introduced as a Dinah Washington favorite, held suggestions of Washington’s phrasing, but with her own rich, suggestive tone. Guitarist George pulled a snappy improvisation from the piece, subtly changing the dynamics and adding fill with sweet, well-timed chording. A standout in the Gilliam’s quintet, which also included bassist Eric Stiller and drummer, Donald Dean, was pianist Kevin Kearney.”
Charles Rutherford –“Big Band Super”
Discovery Record Label
By Bill Kohlhaase, L.A. Times
Feb 19, 1991
“Vocalist Elena Gilliam adds a deep, airy earnestness to Glen Isaacson’s intricate reworking of “My Funny Valentine,” dubbed “Valentine II” here.”