Whole Note Review: tena palmer T.I.N.T. - holy heart of me jazz, eh - November 2014 Since emerging in the group Chelsea Bridge two decades ago, Nova Scotia-born singer Tena Palmer has not just welcomed new challenges and repertoire but sought them out, whether it’s an expedition into free improvisation, an evening of bossa nova or her own blends of jazz and Celtic music. Holy Heart of Me (TLP 002 tenapalmer.net) is a collection of original songs recorded in Iceland with a band called T.I.N.T., or There Is No Them. It would be difficult to corral it into any single genre, whether some subset of folk, rock, pop or jazz, but it’s all imbued with an expressive intensity in which the sensuous and spiritual blur into one another. The frameworks, created largely by guitarist Hilmar Jensson and percussionist Matthias Hemstock, tend towards almost hypnotic, minimalist electronica, spare fields that set Palmer and her songs in stark relief. While Palmer and Jensson might easily carry it all, there are some wonderful guest appearances, among them New Brunswick cornetist Roland Bourgeois on “Golden Rod” and Icelander Omar Gudjonsson playing burbling sousaphone on the title track. - Stuart Broomer Published on 31 October 2014 Parent Category: Current Reviews Category: Jazz and Improvised” - Stuart Broomer

— the Whole Note

Jazz Festival Highlights - Best of the Fest Toronto-based singer, Tena Palmer, first known for her work in the ground-breaking quartet, Chelsea Bridge a decade ago, is a fearless vocalist who seems to put her life on the line on every tune. That raw intensity was on display through two brilliant sets on the Alcan stage. Palmer led a trio with John Geggie and Dan Artuso on guitar and pedal steel as they performed alt-country and jazz-flavoured bluegrass from her CD North Atlantic Drift. The spare instrumentation showed-off her powerhouse voice and improvisational skills. And the choice of material was just right: David Frishberg’s Sweet Kentucky Ham (a quirky song about life on the road), Tom Waits’s bittersweet The Briar and the Rose, and several of her own tunes about love, loss and restlessness. Since winning the festival’s Grand Prix award with Chelsea Bridge in 1993, Palmer has clearly gained a lot of experience after several years performing in Iceland and Holland . She’s got the voice, but she’s also got the storyteller’s gift. - Peter Hadekel, July 7, 2006” - Peter Hadekel

— The Montreal Gazette

First review of Upstream Orchestra's triumphant concert at Festival International Musique Actuelle de Victoriaville May 18, 2013 As a big fan of large ensembles & modern big bands, I was glad to hear the next set from the Upstream Orchestra. This 18-piece ensemble is from the Maritime provinces in Canada and led by saxist Paul Cram, who had a previous large ensemble at Victo several years back. The orchestra was conducted by Jeff Reilly who also once played in a duo with Jerry Granelli at Victo previously. They played three pieces, one by Barry Guy and two by Mr. Cram. You could tell that a good deal of time and preparation went into this concert as the pieces were well-written, tight and superbly played. Vocalist Tena Palmer was one of the highlights of this ensemble, her voice an integral part of the orchestra's tapestry and waves of lines. She often didn't sing words but used her voice in other ways. Some of the music on the first piece reminded me of a spy movie theme and featured a smokin' tenor solo from Mr. Cram. The second piece, "The Magic Order", began quietly with soft vocals, muted trumpet, flutes and other horns all sailing together. This piece reminded me of the Grand Wazoo (Zappa's large jazz ensemble from the early 1970's) which mixed free and charted sections perfectly. The last piece, "Witch Gong Game" by Barry Guy was quite intense and explosive. Different sections of the orchestra (as synth/guitar/voice/percussion) would rise or submerge within other sections, occasionally erupt with some marvellous solos from the soprano sax, voice or other players. The music recalled the great British composer Neil Ardley, who is a personal favorite of mine. I've listened to dozens of large ensembles over the past few years and this, the Upstream Orchestra, was one of the best." - Bruce Lee Gallanter, Downtown Music Gallery, NYC, 6/6/13” - Bruce Lee Gallanter

Downtown Music Gallery, NYC, 6/6/13

A wag once described Canadian improvised music this way: A group of Canadians reach a doorway; being well mannered, each insists that another go first, resulting in no one passing through the door. That stereotype was strongly rebuked by robust sets by, among others, saxophonist Paul Cram’s trio with bassist Danny Parker and drummer Doug Cameron and Zokugaku, a synth and samples fueled trio with Haley, Cameron and keyboardist Tim Crofts. While there is an appealing mild streak in what can be construed from Open Waters as an Atlantic temperament – typified by the humor in the rhythmic use of video clips of Toscanini and other conductors in bassist Andrew Reed Miller’s cross-platform solo piece, “L-EDGY” – it is salted by occasional unhinged intensity, which Miller demonstrated in furiously bowed passages accompanied by the rapid scanning of a vintage Kentucky Fried Chicken commercial. These complementary traits can often register as dichotomous in a set of improvised music; they require a cohering aura of persona, which takes years if not decades to refine – and are best demonstrated in small groups. The case in point for this at Open Waters was Aperture Trio, comprised of vocalist Tena Palmer, guitarist Arthur Bull and Cram. Their respective resources are impressive: Palmer combines precise diction (if the term can be applied to her vast array of vocalizations) and a keen feel for dynamics; Bull’s lines have a flinty centrifugal force, even though he plays at relatively low volume and without effects; Cram’s tenor can be simultaneously muscular and delicate, while his clarinet retains a full woody sound even when he soars. These veterans know what to do when presented with an open door – they go for it, knowing it will sort out.” - Bill Shoemaker

Point of Departure: Online Music journal

Tena Palmer Trio July 17, Holiday Inn Select Commons Room, Quinpool & Robie, 9pm, $25. In a word, singer Tena Palmer is smmmokin’. When I took in her gig at the North Street Church with the musically adventurous Upstream Orchestra a while back, I snuck looks around for the fire marshal. Gifted as a natural, audience-friendly, dramatic artist with scant aversion to risk-taking, she makes her performances stick-in-the-mind memorable. Jazz composer and musician Paul Cram of the Upstream Orchestra says, “She’s fabulous,” and this guy sets for himself—and others in his field—very high standards. This dynamic, totally easy-on-the-eyes vocalist, with a Bachelor of Music in jazz performance (voice), plus a diploma in jazz performance on baritone sax and flute from St. Francis Xavier University, is also a musical changeling who can switch from free-blowing outings to forays into Celtic jazz. Her current bass player, John Greggie, was a member in her Celtic jazz band, Chelsea Bridge. Guitarist Dan Artuso is the third member of the trio. Usually, creatively restless artists actively seek out challenges. Or new directions. Keeps them fresh. Vital. Forward moving. Sometimes a new focus can seem downright puzzling, especially on such cliche-ridden genres as country, bluegrass and folk. Then again, in the right hands (or throat), wondrous transformations can be made. For example, the eccentrically innovative American jazz guitarist Bill Frissell, who headlined last year’s Jazz Fest, transmogrified old-timey country tunes into hauntingly silvery jazz dreamscapes—more David Lynch-ville than Nashville. Expect no less from Tena Palmer. Her wonderful voice and sharp, inventive intelligence is as supple, sensual and witty around a songline as any of the outstanding jazz divas—Ella Fitzgerald, Billie Holiday or Sarah Vaughn. Chameleon-like, she’s also at ease playing hurtin’ country with all the plaintive ache and passion of a Patsy Cline. Playful, pellucid, entertaining, Tena Palmer’s a rare bird worth watching. –Graham Pilsworth ” - – Graham Pilsworth

the Coast: Halifax Weekly Music Magazine July 13, 2006

Palmer soars where angels fear to sing".” - Mark Miller

— The Toronto Globe and Mail

Tena Palmer, North Atlantic Drift, 2005, Festival Jazz A spare, introspective and totally captivating mix of jazz and country. Ottawa -based Tena Palmer, who wrote six of these 14 tracks themed on love, loneliness and life on the road, has a fine voice and an easy, intimate delivery. With the barest minimum of backing ( John Geggie on acoustic bass and Dan Artuso on guitars), she creates a moody and enigmatic atmosphere that feels deeply personal. North Atlantic Drift’s cool tone and open acoustic spaces bring Norah Jones, early Cowboy Junkies, and compatriot Leslie Feist to mind.” - Ann Lough

— LCBO Food & Drink Mag

***** 5 stars Nice low key return from Tena, Nov 8 2005 Boy, Tena Palmer is really unpredictable :). That's a good thing! From the lovely post -bop of Chelsea Bridge to the sorta Joni-Meets-Oregon of her album with Justin Haynes, to the experimental Bjork - like disc, "Crucible," she has shown many sides. This one is a bit of a return to the "Not Drowning...Waving" Haynes side, but a bit more a combination of country/folk and jazz. Best news is her singing is fantastic, and the new songs are really very good. She shows she can still swing like mad in her own way, & deliver a heartfelt ballad like Tom Waits's "Briar & the Rose" too. Wonderful phrasing, & intonation. A low-key release maybe, but definitely one of my faves of '05. If you like her earlier stuff, you'll like it-- and if new I think you'll become a fan.” - E. C. Goodstein (Northern CA United States)

web jazz blog

Palmer is a natural singer, songwriter Can stand beside jazz, country greats Tena Palmer is a no-frills singer. Unpretentious, low-key, audience friendly, a natural performer — she saves her fire for her music. Technically she’s a virtuoso. Expressively she’s a rare one, right up there with the jazz great ones — Ella, Billie, Sarah — in her ability to take us into the heart of the song: she gives us the gift of discovering depths and nuances of feeling in ourselves we never suspected we had. But she also sings country and bluegrass, and requires no handicap to stand alongside Patsy Cline. The two singers are similar both in style and in the conviction that the music is as much about the quiet, universal passion that gives birth to it as it is about heartbreak and loneliness. As a songwriter, Palmer’s gift for metaphor takes a simple song about the loneliness of a touring musician and shifts it into warp drive, not so much propelling the song into a wider universe of human isolation, and the alienation it generates, as instantaneously bringing that wider universe home into the here and now of the concert hall. Songwriting comes as naturally to Palmer, apparently, as her vocal agility in navigating both a wide range of notes (some high enough to qualify as squeaks) and her rainbow palette of timbres. She sang a song about looking for a missing hairclip after listening to West Virginia mining songs. But the song is really about women musicians late for a gig. It’s a country blues and Palmer wailed it out, pulling notes around the top of the chord changes like taffy. Most of her songs were originals, but she also sang choice compositions by Gordon Lightfoot, Merle Travis, Mason Daring and Jimmy Driftwood. The lady has taste as well as talent. Of her own songs, Christmas in Antarctica was typical of her originality and her intellectual curiosity about the strangeness of our planet: Christmas near the South Pole occurs in high summer with 24 hours of perpetual daylight.” - Stephen Pedersen

— Halifax Chronicle Herald

BEST OF THE CITY ARTS & ENTERTAINMENT GUIDE › JAZZ LULA LOUNGE: MAY 20, 2009 • Lula Lounge • 1585 Dundas St. W. • View on map » • 416-588-0307 Singer Tena Palmer is the most creative vocalist in Canadian free improvisation and guitarist Reg Schwager the most distinguished mainstream guitarist, but they’re breaking new ground here in a program devoted to Brazilian bossa nova and samba, May 1. When: May. 1/09 - May. 22/09 How Much: $15–$35 each” - Stuart Broomer


Tena Palmer North Atlantic Drift TLP/Festival Rating: 4 stars Tena Palmer, who distinguished herself with Chelsea Bridge, the Ottawa-based Celtic Jazz Quartet, has a disarming and distinctive presence in this session, with bass and guitar accompaniment. Palmer's group won the 1993 award at the Montreal International Jazz Festival for best new Canadian group. Here she has a decidedly country tinge on 14 tunes, six penned by Palmer. They are verbal collages set off by John Geggie (acoustic bass) and Dan Artuso (acoustic, electric and pedal steel guitars). Palmer has a highly imaginative if sometimes enigmatic presence as she plays with line and space. Check out Artuso's poignant You Hold on to Me and two wistful versions of Humpty Dumpty Heart, a LaVern Baker favourite.-Irwin Block RATINGS: 5 stars - instant classic 4 stars - wonderful” - Irwin Block

— Montreal Gazette May 5, 2005