Jazz singer Crystal Barreca has found her groove. For a few years now I have had the pleasure of hearing Barreca singing around Sydney’s (and now Canberra’s) jazz spots, cafes and holes-in-the-wall. I most recently remember hearing her up front of the amazing all-woman Sirens Big Band (with whom she also played trumpet), tackling Loretta Palmiero’s monkey-puzzle arrangement of ‘My Funny Valentine’ with ease.

There were moments when the ease was too ease-y – when the Sirens’ firepower threatened to immolate her soulful and relaxed jazz voice. There is no danger of that on Crystal’s debut EP, Dreaming. For these five enchanting tracks, Barreca has assembled a group that virtually defines the term ‘simpatico’.

Built on a bed of gypsy manouche groove, reggae-fied swing or latinesque jive, Dreaming occupies a sunny, tree-shade-dappled area of jazz that incorporates elements of pop, folk and soul-blues as it wants. This is entirely fitting as Barreca’s take on jazz singing is not your wedding-singer-Diana-Krall juke box. Her stylistic vocal slurs (sometimes the lyric smears into an area almost closer to scat) and idiosyncratic phrase-endings are pure jazz – a celebration of the freedom that only jazz can. And they are delightful. But the melodies are not jazz melodies, as such. She makes them so.

Andrew Scott’s breezy accordian adds an exotic edge to the double bass and drums of Phill Jenkins and Dom Robinson. Richard Ashby’s manouche guitar chops through with the percussive edge these instruments are known for. Barecca’s Sirens bandmate Palmiero’s soprano sax is used throughout as a foil to Barreca’s vocal – the soprano’s citric-acidity the perfect balance to the vocalist’s milky breathiness. (Another Sirens Big Band friend, trumpeter Ellen Kirkwood, contributes to the strolling New Orleans march intro to opener ‘Just Come On’).

There is not one electric instrument on Dreaming and this acoustic woodiness is captured beautifully by Richard Belkner at Free Energy Device, drawing out all the strength and dimension of these wonderful instruments (played by these wonderful players).

It is a sound-world worth wrapping oneself up in – like the arms of a forest or the older worn parts of a city (maybe Paris), Crystal Barreca’s Dreaming can hold you in its spell for as long as you let it.

Dreaming is being launched at Sydney Vanguard on 23 September.

Crystal Barreca’s website is http://www.crystalbarreca.com

Published September 2012 on megaphoneoz.com

 

 

 

 

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