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Alex Pangman’s 33 is breathtaking

Alex Pangman is a jazz singer — a National Jazz Award and Genie Award winning jazz singer, in fact. So why are we reviewing her new release 33 in a roots music publication? Well, there are three reasons (there could be 33, but our notorious editor has his limits):

1- This is an astonishing Canadian record, co-produced by Pangman and the superb Don Kerr (Rheostatics, Creaking Tree String QuartetRon Sexsmith — who makes a delightful jazz cameo in 33) at Kerr’s Rooster Studio in Toronto. Pangman, the 33-year-old former Jeff Healey prodigy, is covering the hit music of 1933 (get it?).

The record is about as clean a sounding collection of up-tempo, swinging acoustic jazz numbers as you can imagine, featuring a wide array of delightful instruments, including incredible string arrangements by Drew Jurecka, and a kitchen sink full of delicious horns which share the spotlight equally with Pangman’s voice.

2- Oh the voice. It is a crisp, versatile set of pipes that touches on so many of the greats.

Alex Pangman uses unique phrasing, on-demand vibrato, and a seemingly effortless ability to hit every note right in the sweet spot, no matter how challenging the tempo. Many a voice would be overwhelmed trying to keep up with the glorious clarinets, trumpets and saxes found in this music, but it almost seems as though the instrumentation had be brought up to Pangman’s standard of musical mastery instead. Most importantly, these classics — and one original — are delivered with plenty of soul.

3- And all of this recent musical magnificence has been made possible by a pair of lungs donated to Alex Pangman from an anonymous donor in late 2008. Alex Pangman has Cystic Fibrosis, and is an active champion for the cause of organ donation. If there is an afterlife where one’s spirit can observe the wake of one’s life, surely this particular donor would be thrilled with the gift she or he offered Pangman, her family, friends, and music fans everywhere.

But let me be as clear and crisp as Pangman’s voice and her new record, 33. This ain’t no charity review: this record and artist are as magnificent as the story. Folk festival ADs, take good note. This ensemble would delight any crowd, anywhere. And that’s why we’re reviewing 33 in a roots music publication. It’s breathtaking.

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