Lisa Lauren

 

Midlife Moments'

Midlifer of the Week

Lisa Lauren

She Sings Baby Boomer Jazz

by Mike Bellah 

I wanna talk about my generation
It's not too late for a new sensation
Let's take the crisis out of midlife
And get back to where we once belonged.

So begins "Midlife," the feature song on "What Comes Around," a new CD by Chicago-based song writer, jazz pianist, and vocalist Lisa Lauren.

"I wanted to write a positive song," Lauren tells me in a recent online interview, "not just a song complaining about having a midlife crisis." Lauren, who has just passed the Big 4-0 herself, sees her piece as an anthem for aging baby boomers. "The lyrics might make them proud to have made it past 40 without losing it, and feel like it's OK to get older," she says.

For Lauren, "taking the crisis out of midlife" and "getting back to where we belonged" has meant a return to the songs of the '60s, which she has refurbished and recast in her own forte--jazz. "I found I was happier doing songs that I grew up with; only with acoustic bass and sax they took on a new sound," says Lauren.

Some of the numbers Lauren grew up with, which are restyled on her CD, are Donovan's "Sunshine Superman" and McCartney's and Lennon's "Can't Buy Me Love" and "Elenor Rigby." My favorite is another Beatles' tune, "I'm Happy Just to Dance with You."

Lauren performs her songs nightly (both weekends and weeknights) in various Chicago clubs where she is accompanied by a band which includes (at one time or another) acoustic bass, percussion, sax, viola, cello, flute, harmonica and guitar. Lauren herself plays the acoustic piano.

Lauren tells me that her love of music began in childhood when her older sister began piano lessons. "I would listen and then imitate what she played, and often she would let me play little parts in the right hand," says Lauren. Lauren says she wrote her first song ("a depressing little ditty about the Vietnam War") when she was only eight or nine years old.

Lauren was introduced to jazz when she became the feature vocalist for The Western Illinois University Jazz Band. She continued singing after graduation, finally quitting her school teaching job to perform full-time. "It took me a long time to finally get the right combination of musicians together, and when I play with them, it really is a dream come true for me," says Lauren.

"What Comes Around" has received critical acclaim. "Lisa Lauren is the real thing," writes Howard Reich of the Chicago Tribune. "She makes well-worn tunes sound fresh." Online music critic Bruce Bassett of soundstage.com is more graphic. He says, with her "unique brand of musical CPR," Lauren has "jazzed new life" into the pop-tunes of the '60s. Wink Clark, my own official critic for this column, says the tunes are "gentle, easy to listen to, and enjoyable" (Clark won the post of music critic for Midlife Moments partly because he knew it was Carl Perkins and not Elvis Presley who wrote "Blue Suede Shoes").

Lauren and husband Bill (a professional band leader) have two children, Malora, seven, and Jenna, eight. What keeps this working mom going? "I think the main thing I face each day is the fact that I'm realizing a dream, and it's not too late in life to do that," says Lauren. "That's what my song 'Midlife' is all about and writing it was a therapeutic exercise for me."

"What Comes Around" can be purchased at select music stores and online at www.musicblvd.com.

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