San Francisco’s Sony Holland says it’s "a challenge" to be a jazz singer in a town that’s home base for Wesla Whitfield and Paula West. While she agrees that they’re "two of the great things about living in San Francisco," they’re also a little like Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton in the way they draw media attention.
It’s a situation that ought to be remedied; now’s your chance to hear Holland live, at 8 and 10 p.m. Friday through Sunday at Jazz at Pearl’s, 256 Columbus Ave., San Francisco, (415) 291-8255.
On her newest album, 2006’s "Out of This World," singing mostly standards, she displays an appealing straightforward style that slightly resembles Whitfield and West in that the sound is never forced or overdone. Smooth, honeyed vocals flow nicely on both beautiful ballads ("The Nearness of You," "In a Sentimental Mood," a gorgeous, lilting "I’ve Got You Under My Skin") and swinging numbers (opener "Old Devil Moon.")
A couple of original tunes written by her husband, Jerry Holland, complete the thoroughly satisfying album. "It’s An Understatement" is a great bossa nova number, while "I’ll Lead the Way" sounds as classic as tunes by Hoagy Carmichael, Johnny Mercer and Harold Arlen that also appear on the album.
Meanwhile, folk innovator Michael Koppy, another San Franciscan, is in the middle of a monthlong gig at Thee Parkside, 1600 17th St., (415) 503-0393. Koppy is opening Twang BBQ Sundays; he’ll perform free shows at 5 p.m. this Sunday as well as on July 22 and 29.
His album "Red River Redux" is truly extraordinary, comprising mostly old, traditional tunes — but done in a way you’ve never heard before. Under Koppy’s amazing guitar-picking fingers (and with his plaintive vocals), "Oh, Susanna," "You Are My Sunshine" and "Red River Valley" aren’t your run-of-the-mill campfire fare, but instead have a searing depth that lingers.
Koppy is also a serious music historian, but with an excellent sense of humor. The album’s opening cut reveals how the tune "Wildwood Flower" has transitioned over the years; he also covers "I’m So Glad," a song by Skip James, but best known from the wacky 1960s version done by Cream.