by Constance Tucker
Andréa Wood is a jazz vocalist for the 21st century. With all the respect and ability for the tradition, and all the technique and vocal control required in today’s music, Wood stands and delivers (Ok yes, I am showing my 80’s slip now). Beyond being a vocalist with supreme vocal know-how, she is also wise beyond her years as an eloquent lyricist and composer; her originals show her depth and insight into the deeper meaning of life’s stories. “Intuition” a Wood original, has the exotic undertone of Latin infused rhythms and interesting sectional spaces that give the vocalist a chance to ring true on her lyric messaging and create textural interest and depth. Joined by guest artist Donny McCaslin, the track is punctuated by searing lines of chromaticism and arpeggios flurried into a driving climax to set the listener on fire. Wood rising to the occasion digs in and opens her voice for a dramatic ending, filled with twists and turns of rhythmic feels and textures for an emotional ride.
Stevie Wonder is always a wonderful choice, as his tunes are rich and filled with harmonic beauty. Wood excels on ballads to the highest elevation. A ballad for a vocalist is the true test of ability, the breath control and clarity is crystalline and the listener truly gets an inside look at Wood’s aptitude. “You and I” is such a wise choice to showcase a ballad, and Wood and her group rise to the occasion. Wood is a vocalist who could honestly sing in any genre she desired, but chooses to stay in jazz. Her soulfulness drips from each note; the cut has a retro sound that invokes a slow burn. Guitarist, Olli Hirvonen adds an inspired solo, with articulate lines and ample dexterity. Wood ends the tune with jazzy harmonic lines that one can hear the infinite details of gentle introspection with a production value that lingers softly into the oasis.
For me, the absolute single on the album is another Wood original “Take a Chance.” Angelo Di Loreto is on Fender Rhodes, and set ups the tune with a grooving feel, joined by Wood vocally, once again masterfully setting up the tune, as each musician joins in, layered ever so gracefully, they land together in a driving force. Wood’s lyrics ring of relationship longing, though young in age, you can tell that Wood has lived life and reflects it in her lyric of a requited love. What I enjoyed about this track is Wood, being of the younger generation, is infusing the music she grew up with and the love of jazz melded into an appealing new sound, like the greats of yesteryear – she is not content with the standard flair. If jazz is going to survive in the new generation, it will take inventive risk taking artists like Wood to drive this genre to connect to the listener of today. Jazz doesn’t always fit in a nice “standard” box. Let’s just hope the older gen set that keeps holding the gate, realizes an entire generation is pushing at that gate and it’s time to create unity if the genre is going to survive.
If you are a standard’s devotee, I can recommend Wood’s version of “Nature Boy,” but listener beware, if you cannot stand inventiveness or an outro that involves distorted guitar swells, then you might want to touch that dial at the end. In the press release it states, “Andréa Wood is living proof that music was meant to evolve.” This statement could not be truer and thank goodness artists like Wood and her band are heading up the cause, because Kaleidoscope is truly a calling card of inventive, articulate, well-conceived, well- executed performances, led by a vocalist with commanding vocal prowess and pioneering ideas. Keeping it fresh and relevant for the 21st century listener, drive on Wood, drive on.