Posts Tagged ‘Carole King’

With the new album Colours of Your Love, Brisbane jazz singer Ingrid James brings together a unique and multi-layered collaboration.

James has come together with pianist/composer/arranger Louise Denson and the 9-piece Wild Silk Strings Project to create something quite exquisite – 12 songs/arrangements ranging from Satie to Mongo to Supertramp with some lovely excursions into Afro-Cuban, Latin and the ballad form.

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The Wild Silk Strings Project is a unique 9-piece hybrid of rhythm section and strings, with some horns added here and there for timbre and solos. Stan Getz‘s 1961 album with composer/arranger Eddie Sauter, Focus, is a touchstone, as I am sure are a number of jazz-plus-strings experiments between then and now.

As with all experiments, some worked, most didn’t – Denson’s arrangements work here beautifully as she appears to have approached them with a clarity of mind and a sharp – pardon the pun, Stan – focus. Also, As Sauter had Getz’s languid tenor to wrap his strings around, Denson is lucky to have Ingrid James’ clear and warm voice to swathe in hers. Gauze-like at times, as on lovely latin ballad, the Denson/James original ‘First Love’, or heat-haze-shimmering as on opener, Erik Satie‘s ‘Gnossienne No 1’.

Nowhere is this strings-by-numbers: Denson’s string arrangement on Mongo Santamaria‘s Cuban driver ‘Flame Tree’ is quite Gil Evans in its dissonances and tart flavours; whereas on K D Lang‘s ‘Constant Craving’ the ensemble behind James’ vocal  draws out the lyric’s yearning through creative voicings. Paul White‘s tenor solo, together with James’ perfectly held reading of Lang’s 1992 song, make us believe it is the jazz standard we always knew it was. Ingrid James 22

The pop songs covered on Colours of Your Love are an intriguing choice that, for the most part, work. Supertramp‘s whimsical ‘Logical Song’ is taken at a 6/8 Afro clip, with the beat cut up cleverly to appear as a slow waltz for the middle eight. Carole King‘s ‘It’s Too Late’ suffers from a too-radical rethinking of the melody – the wistfulness of the lyric seems to be lost in the chop and change. Gordon Lightfoot‘s ‘If You Could Read My Mind’ always was a lovely song and always will be – Denson and James’ reading here can be added to the better interpretations of it.

But this is all devil’s detail – what I do love about Colours of Your Love is the overall feeling of breeziness and sunlight. Even though nowhere near a bossa nova album, I can feel the ozone off Ipanema and feel my skin warmed by it’s tropicalia. The yin is Ingid James’ eminently listenable voice – devoid of histrionics or flash, clear as a bell and velvety – and the yang is Louise Denson’s apt and sharp arrangements of the tunes – and of course the talents of The Wild Silk Strings Project themselves – all coming together so impeccably well.

Ingrid James’ website is https://www.ingridjames.com

 

 

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For her latest album, Nightlight, Sydney singer, songwriter and pianist, Rachel Collis has reinvented herself.

For many years a creator and performer of music at the sharp and witty end of cabaret in a series of one-woman shows, this time round Collis has dug deeper, painting bleaker vistas of both landscape and the heart with her songs.

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And there is some serious songcraft at work here. At a time in pop-musical history when the various Song(s) of The Year are too often simple-minded earworms more suited to tipsy beach sing-a-longs than anything to do with our deeper lives, Collis’ songs are a welcome jolt – a jolt back to the time of Jim Webb, Carole King (circa Tapestry), Stephen Sondheim and Joni Mitchell.

Beautifully realised by the sympathetic yet full-blooded production of Collis and Sean Carey (Thirsty Merc), the ten songs on Nightlight range from the heart-swelling and wide-screen to the introverted and folded-inward. Collis and Carey’s musical vision never gets in the way of the songs, remaining transparent and thoughtful.

The supporting musicians equally read the songs beautifully – two tips of the hat to bassist Michael Galeazzi and drummer Michael Quigley for their sure yet light footprints over all this. Jack Wiard‘s clarinet solo deserves a mention for lighting up the faintly silly but charming ‘A Duck Named Sybil’ (yep, you can take the girl out of cabaret, but you can’t, etc…)

Yet speaking of cabaret, it is those lessons learned from Collis’ previous musical incarnation(s) that give this music so much of its drama, ease of storytelling and direct emotion connection. Lighter forms of music – music tooled for ‘entertainment’ rather than cap-A Art – have often informed the supposedly ‘higher’ levels of the form: Miles Davis transformed popular Broadway showtunes of the day for his exquisite mid-1950s jazz quintet recordings; the Beatles, especially the early 60’s tunes of Paul McCartney, drew heavily on showtunes, cabaret favourites and pop hits of previous decades for their bittersweet loveliness.collis2

The direct yet personal voice across opener ‘Tomorrow’, the smoothly strident ‘Those Words’ and closer ‘Make Room’ – a delicately held piano ballad – is reinforced by Collis’ smart piano voicings: here Top 10 cap-P Pop, there Aaron Copland autumn rustic, each track knits the piano around and behind the voice to variously luscious, bleak or colourful effect. Comparisons to early Elton John and Billy Joel are obvious – yet i was reminded more of Joni Mitchell’s piano songs, such as ‘Court and Spark’.

Nightlight‘s centrepiece is the seven and a half minute ‘Winter In Munich’ – a long-form song that rises and falls through several cycles, as Collis meditates on loss and transformation, her piano icing the edges of our window. The Kinetic String Quartet‘s strings (arranged by Collis) widen the screen, painting the bleak winter of earth and heart.

The ambition of ‘Winter In Munich’ appears to be Collis’ mission statement with Nightlight –  a banner of her maturing and growing as an artist. The ten songs here hit the mark in every way and i know we will hear more of the good stuff from her.

One does wonder though whether there is a place for songs this good anymore? In an age of fast-forward-to-the-good-bit, instantaneous gratification and throw-away downloads dripping like a tap, do pop listeners still give anything the chance to grow and unfurl, as Collis’ songs do? I do not know the answer and am betting on the side of quality over convenience, despite all indications to the contrary.

Whatever the answer, Rachel Collis’ Nightlight deserves as much of your time as it asks.

 

Rachel Collis’ website is http://rachelcollis.com

 

 

 

 

Brown, it’s all brown. Brown, orange, mustard, gold ochre. Earth tones – the album artwork is all earth tones; nostalgic, warm and earthy 1970s earth tones.

But in this case, to paraphrase another popular 1970s signifier, Brown is (definitely) BeautifulMichael Kiwanuka’s debut album, Home Again, is earthy, rich and fertile all the way through. Even its title, Home Again, has a golden-hazed loveliness about it. The 24 year old UK singer-songwriter’s voice is deep brown too – the brown of chocolate, cocoa, old wood, long-loved leather. You could climb into the gnarled arms of this album and look down on the silly-speeding world, protected by the haze of an eternal late-Autumn afternoon.

Kiwanuka was one of UK mag MOJO’s artists to watch in 2012. And while MOJO often tends to get a little hot and bothered over anything that remotely whiffs of the fragrant 70s, their taste is, in the main, pretty impeccable. It is understandable that they went for Michael Kiwanuka – this album could easily have been the singer-songwriter hit of 1971, ranked alongside Carole King’s Tapestry or Jackson Browne.

I personally hear it as in the groove of Sixto Rodriguez’s Cold Fact or Donny Hathaway before the hits – an urbane and urban (urban in the original sense, before hip-hop urban) masterpiece of soul-folk with one sandal in the street and the other in the garden. Like Rodriguez, Michael Kiwanuka’s voice seems the voice of experience, not bitter, just full and knowing. Its old-wood and sepia timbre lends each song a lot of weight, and they are heavy songs to begin with.

Opener ‘Tell Me A Tale’ is a jazz groove, but a la Astral Weeks – open and flowing, complete with brass, flutes and a gnashing tenor sax solo by Gary Plumley over the coda. Very lush, very full, none of the album seems over-produced. Producer Paul Butler has gone for a gorgeous, chart-friendly sound in the full knowledge that Kiwanuka’s songwriting and delivery will always keep the material deep and real.

From ‘Tell Me A Tale’ the album drops down a gear or two, and stays there – Home Again unfolds at its own pace, the main focus being to frame Kiwanuka’s ochre voice and deep-rooted songs – the Paul Simon-like shuffle of ‘I’m Getting Ready’, the country-blues of ‘Rest’, the lovely finger-picked title track, ‘Home Again’. 

‘Bones’ has a strangely distant sound about it – distant in both space and time – when I listened to this haunted ballroom tune I felt like I had dropped the needle on a scratchy Sam Cooke 45 unearthed from a garage sale. Quite gorgeous, topped off by the touching and humble line ‘Without you I’m just bones…’

By the time I arrived at the closing track, the minor blues ‘Worry Walks Beside Me’ I realized that Home Again – like Back to Black or even Adele’s 21 – is not a nostalgia trip; it just doesn’t seem to give two shits about the current way music is made (whatever that may be). Like those two monster albums it deserves to be a significant and enduring hit. And like poor Amy and rich sweet Adele, Michael Kiwanuka has a voice that is of the ages, unforgettable.

Published March 2012 on theorangepress.net