by Rudy Palma
This is a genre where there seems to be an abundance of submissions each week. For a genre of music that is touted as only capturing 1 to 2% of the overall music market, it is certainly healthy with vocal releases.
Jenny Davis, Rearranged (Three Penny, 2020)
Vocalist and composer Jenny Davis puts for her fourth album Rearranged. Her newest endeavor is a becoming, a step forward in the amalgamation of twenty years of performing and ideas that resonate with a depth of original material that ranges in tempo, timbre, and at times instrumentation. Nine of the twelve tracks are Davis’ originals. It is in her originals where the listener can find smartly crafted lyrics and instrumentals that, at times, step into the third-stream leaning. Davis has a supple buoyancy to her voice that feels inviting. She utilizes each finite quality of her voice as a vehicle of profundity. Rearranged takes the listener through aspects of Latin-word-jazz like “Aceptar,” or the playful Herbie Hancock tune “And What If I Don’t.” Joined by GRAMMY-nominated Jovino Santos Neto, whose masterful command illuminates each track. I especially liked “Gemini Tango,” its seductive rhythms and poetic lyric are memorable. Rearranged is a masterstroke of rarified ingenue and seasoned doyen. Davis is a full-fledged delight.
Norah Jones, Pick Me Up Off the Floor (Blue Note, 2020)
Some say pop, some say jazz while others call her a little bit modern folkish. However, you desire to label Norah Jones, one undeniable notion is her masterful songwriting and her warming vocal delivery. In Jones’ case, I don’t think anyone cares what genre any given album might be labeled, it’s just ravishing music. On her latest album, Pick Me Up Off the Floor, we are treated to the songstresses’ sparse, understated instrumentation with her voice front and center like a book circle where you relish the story it twists and turns. The anecdote of “How I Weep,” to the powerful slow burn of “Flame Twin,” harkens to a smoky bar when we used to be able to hang at our favorite watering hole lavish in our dirty little passion of live music. A striking ballad, “This Life” is almost anthemic of the times…as Jones ruminates, “This life as we know it is over….” a melancholy tune with a haunting refrain that offers pearls of hope and perseverance.
Gregory Porter, All Rise (Blue Note, Universal Music Division Decca Records France, 2020)
From the first notes, Porter commands your ears. This is Porter’s sixth album in a succession of adroit recordings highlighting the many facets of Porter’s rich and dulcimer toned voice. All Rise signals Porter’s return to original songwriting. Everyday stories imbued with a mix of jazz, soul, blues, and gospel. The album features fourteen tracks of pure joy. “If Love Is Overrated” features an orchestrated blissfulness by the London Symphony Orchestra Strings. Porter is resolved, poignant and beguiling. “Mr. Holland,” is Porter’s take on social equality. A soulful new song with a pointed underlying message about acceptance and racial prejudice. While “Phoenix” is a sensual and breezy tune that celebrates the rise of love, it can fly, and it can glow. A highlight on the album is “Revivial” it renews the spirit and eases the soul. “This is a straight-up gospel. This what I heard in church. When somebody caught the Holy Ghost, this was the beat,” says Gregory of “Revival,” which was co-written with the album’s producer Troy Miller. If you are not inspired after listening to All Rise, please check your pulse, you might need resuscitation.
Linda Purl, Taking A Chance on Love (Reaching Records, 2020)
Many may recognize Purl from her many roles as an actress in TV and film. Her credits are vast and varied. Whether its Fonzie’s fiancée on Happy Days, Matlock’s daughter Charlene Matlock, Pam’s Mom/Steve Carell’s girlfriend on The Office, Purl has starred in 45 made-for-TV movies and counting, including the hilariously quirky Claire-ity on Amazon. Unbeknownst to me, this is Purl’s fifth album as a leader. What a breath of fresh air Taking A Chance of Love is. Purl is joined on the album by David Finck: bass, Tedd Firth: piano, Ray Marchica: drums, and Nelson Rangell: reeds. Those eminent jazz names alone should send a quiver up the jazzbo pole. Purl is sumptuously focused on her tonality and not limited in her delivery. Each note is filled with hope and candor. That same girl next door quality is in each cut. “Pure Imagination” has luxating instrumentation, replete with Finck’s exquisite bowing. “Wave” is a highlight of the album; the airy bossa transports the listener to Brazil’s beaches. Purl’s voice floats atop the melody with an arousing sensuality. Of particular note is the flute work of Rangell on this tune, his trills and fills are delicate and propel the beauty of the melody. Purl certainly proves her talents are vast, and Taking A Chance on Love cements her weave in the fabric of jazz. Brava!