“It would be hard to find a box of musical bonbons more beguiling than this collection of post-Jazz Age treats…Her earnest vocals and sharp Alleycats band make each song sparkle.” – TORONTO STAR REVIEW BY JOHN TERAUDS
Although Alex Pangman grew up a couple of generations late to have sung with Teddy Wilson, the vibrant young vocalist is proud to be known as Canada’s Sweetheart of Swing. With pipes aplenty, Juno nominee Pangman possesses the requisite taste, talent and the historical knowledge of an avid record collector to breathe new life into the sturdy standards of the classic jazz era.
A superb song stylist with growing compositional chops, the gifted Toronto scenemaker has built a loyal fanbase amongst jazz listeners and dancers alike through her critically acclaimed work with her stacked Alleycats in the studio, nightclubs and concert halls across Canada including three stellar showcases at the Montreal International Jazz Festival. (Her Alleycats band includes Peter Hill on piano, Glenn Anderson on drums, Chris Banks on bass, and John Macleod & Brigham Phillips on cornet/trumpet, Ross Wooldridge on clarinet & sax, and/or Drew Jurecka on violin and reeds, with Jesse Barksdale on guitar.)
Alex’s dedication to her music goes far beyond was might be called a passionate pursuit – it’s more like a life-long obsession which began in her teens upon first discovering Louis Armstrong and Jack Teagarden along with amazing singers like Mildred Bailey, Julia Lee and Maxine Sullivan. “An exciting new world with this immense songbook opened up to me.”
Alex quickly began delving deeper into the sophisticated shellac of the 20s and 30s which eventually led to a fortuitous connection with guitar great Jeff Healey who knew a rare talent when he heard it. In very short order, Healey produced her impressive 1999 debut They Say (Sensation Records) as well as the 2001 follow-up, You Can’t Stop Me From Dreaming. While facets of Ella Fitzgerald, Connie Boswell and Ruth Etting could be discerned in Alex’s zesty delivery, that crisp clear voice was unequivocally her own.
After getting a Songwriter of the Year nomination from the National Jazz Awards for her tune Melancholy Lullaby for the 2001 film Torso: The Evelyn Dick Story, Alex received two more nominations in the Vocalist Of The Year category and then a Ken Whiteley number she sang over the opening scene of the 2003 feature film Falling Angels won a Genie for Best Original Song.
While the gorgeously filmed videos for the aforementioned Melancholy Lullaby and One Night In Monte Carlo shot to the top of the Bravo! Countdown, Alex was busily scheduling collaborations with everyone from Grammy-nominated trumpeter Kevin Clark and the dashing Denzal Sinclaire to pianist Tyler Yarema and even Jim Galloway’s All-Stars. But Alex was never keen on being anyone’s “chick singer” and to underscore that point, she selected the repertoire, assembled her band and co-produced 2005’s Live In Montreal (Real Gone Gal) album which stands among her finest recorded performances.
The blessing of more frequent bookings would also prove to be a curse. Smoke-filled venues were definitely not the place for someone battling lung disease and Alex reluctantly slowed down to recoup. All the while, her interest in singing and playing music never waned. In fact, it was during her self-imposed exile that she stumbled onto the city’s bluegrass and string-band underground. Alex fit right in with the scrappy Cameron House crowd who shared her excitement for the enriching sound of a bygone era when the lines between jazz, blues and country were still blurry enough to ignore.
A hook-up with the Backstabbers’ frontman Colonel Tom Parker gave rise to the rollicking roots country combo Lickin’ Good Fried. But following the release of the group’s Say Uncle! debut, Alex’s physical condition worsened and a double-lung transplant was deemed essential. Fortunately a donor was found and the surgery was a complete success.
Alex roared back with a new recording project, 33 for the prestigious Montreal jazz label Justin Time. Released in April 2011 to wide critical acclaim, the title “33” refers both to Pangman’s age at the time of recording as well as to the fact that the carefully selected repertoire was popular in North America during 1933. Pangman’s cross-Canada tour which followed in the summer of 2011 – with support from the Canada Council for the Arts – helped to broaden her reach beyond the traditional jazz audience. Along the way, she has made the most of her heightened profile to be a strong advocate for organ and tissue donation.
As soon as Pangman returned home to Toronto, she was back at work on her next recording adventure: a session pairing her well-drilled Alleycats backing group with jazz guitar great Bucky Pizzarelli who famously traded fours with Les Paul and Stephane Grappelli. The fabulous Have A Little Fun album, issued in 2013, beautifully showcases Pangman’s impeccable taste in material and impressive growth as an interpretive stylist.
Just as word came that she would be sharing a Toronto Jazz Festival bill with Willie Nelson at Massey Hall, the state of Pangman’s health began to decline. A double-lung re-transplant was required and thankfully another donor was found. Good news from the surgeon is that it was an excellent match this time. While making a remarkably quick recovery, Pangman dreamed up her most ambitious project to date. Rather than play it safe, she decided to use those newly-acquired lungs to cut an album of entirely fresh material, with a cast of musicians she’d never met, at a studio she’d never seen in that wild ‘n’ wonderful city of New Orleans where jazz was born.