Wednesday, 20 May 2020

Two Faces 35

Kandace Springs - The Women Who Raised Me, album review

Grace and Honour

As the title tells us, this is a homage to influence, or perhaps more accurately, those who set a course for others to follow. As covers, we have with these precursor influences/leaders those who have set the highest standards by the pervasive legacy of their existence – what I mean is, these are hard acts to follow.

But that representation by Springs is a resounding success, meaning the pun too. Opener Devil May Care is a jaunt set by the bass riff of Christine McBride, one of the classy layers of accompanying artists on this album. Second is Angel Eyes with a significant personal influence in Norah Jones: two great vocalists singing wonderfully side by side. Perfect complement in both senses.

I first came across Kandace Springs when seeing her as support for Gregory Porter, a brisk but dynamic trio spot highlighting her piano playing and soulful vocal, and I then ‘researched' on YouTube where she was exemplary as a predominantly soul and funk singer/performer, and immediately impressive for this. Her jazz ‘shift’ has been the main focus on her albums since [see my reviews here].  This release is the most consistently realised.

Every song and every accompaniment is excellent on this album. The two with trumpeter Avishai Cohen are the fine Pearls and beautiful I Can’t Make You Love Me – in the former there is some sweet vocal/horn note-matching; and in the latter [such a gorgeous song as melody and lyrics] there is a palpable emotive layer throughout, and the trumpet solo soothes with the sublime vocal, voice and instrument again merging their tones here and there.

Saxophonist Chris Potter continues the tandem success on Gentle Rain and Solitude, two standards imbued with that inherent class. Two ‘solo’ numbers are The Nearness of You and What Are You Doing the Rest of Your Life, both beautifully enclosed around vocal and piano.

Then Springs takes on the huge challenge of Roberta Flack’s Killing Me Softly, a song so definitively performed, and the slowly measured and brooding pace builds its jazz rumination around a vocal that dances in and about that build and the electric piano’s resonances, before the beat picks up its energies with Elena Pinderhughes on flute. Gorgeous. There is a similar empathetic cover of the iconic Strange Fruit – these last two never subverted in the grace and honour of the tribute.

Two Faces 34

Tuesday, 19 May 2020

Natalie Jane Hill - Azalea, album review

Emerald Hue

I think this is wonderful – acoustic folk transformed from the welcome familiarity of its lineage by the distinctive vocal of Hill which has a tenor resonance [best I can do to define] that is occasionally burred with tremolo but always that resonating clarity. Special. Her guitar playing is superbly finger-picked with sometime note-bending, and then there is the replacement banjo, as on Usnea. Openers Goldenrod and Flooded are graced with gorgeous harmonies, and everything else is quite sublime. Listening to the perfect Emerald Blue as I write which gives this post its title [you know, the idea of preciously coloured].

Get it here