by Willard Maus
So many splendid
female jazz singers, so little space.
SOMI-THE LAGOS MUSIC SALON. The American-born Somi investigates
her African heritage in a new Okeh release which features the singer on
18 cuts. Inspired by a teaching job in Lagos, Nigeria, SOMI mixes many
different styles and groovesjazz,
Afro-pop, soul-in painting a musical mosaic of modern Africa. The
album even includes snippets of street talk, jokes and bureaucratic officiousness.
Produced by Nigerias Cobhams Asuquo and New Yorks Keith Witty,
SOMI is without doubt one of the most unusual jazz CDs of the year.
FREDA PAYNECOME BACK TO ME MY LOVE. Payne has been singing since the
60s but sounds youthful and spirited on this new Mack Avenue/Artistry Music
release. Fronting a big band led by Bill Cunliffe, Payne sings fourteen
tunes, six of which were written by Gretchen C. Valade and Tom Robinson.
The other eight include such standards as Youd Be So Nice to Come
Home To and Midnight Sun. At times wailing and scatting, otther times going
bluesy and sexy on torch songs like You Dont Know and Guess Ill
Hang My Tears Out to Dry, Payne shows just what a versatile singer she is,
a jazz treasure.
CYRILLE AIMEEITS A GOOD DAY. Detroit-based Mack Avenue has also
thrown its resources behind Cyrille Aimee, a young jazz singer who recently
won both the Montreux Jazz Festivals Vocal Competition and the Sarah
Vaughan International Vocal Competition. Aimee, who grew up in France but
also has lived in Cameroon, Singapore, Dominican Republic and USA, exploits
her influences on GOOD DAY, singing in two languages backed up by three
guitarists (Jazz, Gypsy, Brazilian). The result is fresh-sounding and captivating,
portending a bright future for this young diva.
CYNTHIA FELTON-SAVE YOUR LOVE FOR ME. The soulful Felton pays tribute
to one of her idols, Nancy Wilson, on this new release. Aided by such
world-class musicians as Patricia Rushen, Jeff Clayton, Ernie Watts and
John Beasley, Felton revisits eleven tunes associated with Wilson, including
the title track plus Never Will I Marry and The Masquerade Is Over. Best
of all is her stirring rendition of Wilsons biggest hit, Guess Who
I Saw Today.
KARLA HARRIS SINGS THE DAVE & IOLA BRUBECK SONGBOOK. Yes, kiddies,
there really was a Brubeck songbook. Published some forty years ago, it
contained dozens of songs that Dave and his wife had written, many for
a little-known 60s musical called The Real
Ambassadors. Carmen McRae, back in 1961, recorded some of these songs
in a live performance with the Brubeck Quartet, but that albums
been pretty much forgotten over the years. Now Harris, a fixture on the
Pacific NW jazz scene, has given new life to
the Brubecks creative efforts. Iola, working off her husbands
complex, time-changing music, wrote most of the lyrics-all of which
are smart, sophisticated and touching. Harris proves the ideal
singer for this fiendishly difficult project; joined by sax player Bob
Sheppard, drummer Dave Weckl and bassist Tom Kennedy, she shines on all
eleven tunes, especially Take Five, Easy As You Go and Travlin Blues.
No Brubeck devotee should be without this Summit Records release.