Posts Tagged ‘Louise Denson’

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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The only place on Earth where jazz exists is The United States.

It sometimes feels like that. Especially if you check the (North) American and international jazz press. How many U.S. jazz fans are aware of our great artists such as David Ades, Julien Wilson, Mike Nock or Bernie McGann?

And how many are aware of Japanese, Swedish or French jazz? There is some great stuff to be heard from all over the world; a friend recently put me onto an organ trio from Greece that was knockout!

Ingrid james1Australian jazz singer Ingrid James’ recent release – Trajectoire – just might convince a few more that there is some good music to be had beyond West 44th Street (or 505 or Bennett’s Lane). Made with a mix of Australian, French, Danish and U.S. players, it is a revelation.

James is here paired with the Alexis Tcholakian Trio from France. In fact the album grew out of pianist Tcholakian’s request that she pen lyrics for a number of his compositions. Direct, and with just the right mix of experience, urbanity and poetry, her lyrics work so well it is hard to believe often that they didn’t come first, before the melodies.

Another nice balance across Trajectoire is that James has found the right point between the hip and the sweet. Too many recent jazz vocal albums seem to take the tame path, assumedly in the hope of wider audience – maybe on the fringe of Pop. This collection of songs retains some true grit and jazz light and shade, yet steers clear of the miasmic mists that afflict the jazz vocal recordings at the other end of the spectrum. There is a strong feeling of tradition – but respect for that tradition rather than either a dry clinging to it, or a sickly sugaring of it.

This balance is exemplified by the opening mission statement, a reading of Jimmy Rowles’ ‘A Timeless Place (The Peacocks)’ (lyric by Norma Winstone). James navigates this tricky winding melody with superbly simpatico paino from Tcholakian and his trio.Ingrid james2

The arrangement is smartly considered, with the piano mirroring in unison some sections of the vocal. This device is used to great effect on many tracks, marketely on the two vocal solos written by Louise Denson – the first, a duet with Danish tenor sax player Simon Spang-Hanssen on the Hammond-driven ‘Blue Confluence’; the second on the Bill Evans-ish waltz of ‘Night Reflection’.

The latter duet is with Australia’s Miroslav Bukovsky whose flugelhorn’s round golden tone sounds uncannily like a human voice itself.

The snaky melody, latin groove and Marian Bitran’s flute of the title track, ‘Trajectoire’ recalls Chick Corea’s 70s work with Flora Purim. The album pulls from many styles of jazz – ‘Midsummer Flower’s samba, the Rhodes-driven fusion of ‘Circle of Love’, the languid ballad of album closer ‘It’s Not Over’ – but there is a unity that holds it all together, a major factor being James’ warm and honeyed voice – like Dianne Reeves, a voice born for jazz.

Trajectoire is satisfying on all levels. I look forward to more from Ingrid James and Alexis Tcholakian.

Published March 2016 on australianjazz.net