“Hot young soul singer from the U.K. drops debut album” is not as effective a headline as it once might have been. There are simply so many soul singers working presently, and so few of them seem to possess anything resembling genuine soul, that “soul” has become about as meaningful a signifier as “punk.” As in, not very meaningful at all. Of course, one falls for such headlines anyway, because hope endures, and light can enter your life from the most unexpected places.
A little bit of light has entered mine with the arrival of “Definitely Now,” the first album from Nottingham, England, native Liam Bailey. So self-assured, so startlingly soulful, and so redolent of a deep immersion in both popular music’s past and present that it’s tough to accept Bailey as a newcomer. He’s got the voice. He’s got musical chops to spare. He can write. And he understands that soul exists in the spaces between the notes as much as it exists in the notes themselves.
The time was certainly ripe for some young buck to come along and connect Bob Marley, Hendrix and Otis Redding to the Black Keys, White Stripes and like-minded purveyors of Caucasian garage-soul. Bailey is that dude.
“Definitely Now” kicks off with the psychedelic strut of “On My Mind” – picture “Brothers”-era Black Keys as covered by John Legend & the Roots, with Sonny Sharrock on guitar – and proceeds to tear through 14 original tunes that blend reggae (Bailey is half Jamaican, and he’s not messing when he takes on the form), Motown, Hendrix-informed acid-pop, at least one song that suggests immersion in early Pink Floyd, and the sort of soul-pop crossovers that we would have loved to have the opportunity to hear Bailey’s first big fan and benefactor, Amy Winehouse, sing.
If I sound breathless, it’s because Bailey has left me that way. A simply stunning debut.
– Jeff Miers
Music for Alfred Hitchcock
Performed by Danish National Symphony Orchestra conducted by John Mauceri
No, this is hardly an original on disc. There are any number of discs collecting the extraordinary music film composers created for the films of Alfred Hitchcock – in particular a truly great disc of Bernard Herrmann’s Hitchcock Music conducted by Los Angeles Philharmonic conductor Esa-Pekka Salonen.
This, though, is unusually broad-ranging in a lot of ways, even if most of those ways are ones you might wish weren’t here at all. You’ll find, for instance, at the end of this disc, Danny Elfman’s end credit music for the dreadful movie of Hitchcock’s life called “Hitchcock.” Even though Elfman’s music is vastly better than the movie, it’s still painful to be reminded of it.
It’s not all that often that you’ll hear Dimitri Tiomkin’s music for “Strangers on a Train” in a suite or his music for “Dial M for Murder” either. Arthur Benjamin’s cantata “The Storm Clouds” from “The Man Who Knew Too Much” made for a better film sequence in a concert hall than a piece of music on disc.
With Franz Waxman’s music for “Rebecca” and “Rear Window” so prominent, one has to wonder where the devil is even a bar of Miklos Rosza’s music from “Spellbound”?
Obviously, the heart of the disc is the Herrman music – the Prelude and “Scene d’Amour” from “Vertigo,” the jagged main title music of “North by Northwest” and “Psycho: A Narrative for Orchestra” in which screaming violins became one of the greatest traumas in the entire history of movies.
An interesting collection – and unusual way of doing a thing that isn’t the slightest bit unusual.
– Jeff Simon
B That Way
[Blue Bay Records]
It isn’t simply true that Nancy Kelly has improved over time. What’s also true is that time has improved Kelly’s position and made it far greater in context than she once seemed to be.
Ella, Sarah and Carmen were still around when she started singing. What we have now without them in an increasingly uncertain jazz world is a massive inundation of jazz singers – particularly hopeful young female jazz singers. And in that MFA world, Kelly seems to loom three times larger than she ever used to.
She is a veteran singer, to put it mildly. It would be ungentlemanly to date her precisely, but let’s just say when she was a teen, the Supremes and Beatles were in full flower. And when she first started as a jazz songstress, she seemed, more than anything, a hard-swinging theatrical impersonation of a jazz singer.
That impression, over the years, vanished. Now the singer from Rochester seems like a brilliantly swinging veteran who can leave 80 percent of the tyros and would-be’s of female jazz song in the dust.
On this record – which was “publicly funded by over 75 financial donors” – she is paying joyful tribute to the role of the Hammond B-3 organ in her jazz life, including four years in a “salt and mostly pepper” jazz club in Philadelphia called Jewel’s on Broad Street. “I was at B-3 ground zero” she says. “Jewel’s was the host to headliners such as Groove Holmes, Jack McDuff, Shirley Scott, local favorite Trudy Pitts and a very young Joey DeFrancesco. I was in heaven.”
To get to Hammond B-3 heaven on disc, she’s got organist Dino Losito, drummer Carmen Intorre, saxophonist Jerry Weldon and first-rate guitarist Peter Bernstein.
Her repertoire is rich in Billie Holiday (“Good Morning, Heartache,” “Don’t Explain”), lickety-split bebop (“Billie’s Bounce”), non-standard “standards” (“Don’t Go To Strangers,” “Come Back to Me”). This is one canny jazz vocal disc.
“The organ trio sound,” she says now, had become “a major part of my musical fiber.” And so it is on a disc that is rich in exactly how good a singer she is, and, as well, how good she seems to be within the jazz singing community.
Songs of Spain
Corinne Winters, soprano
Steven Blier, piano
Fifteen beautiful songs by such composers as Xavier Montsalvatge, Joaquin Nin and Joaquin Turina, what’s not to love? Corinne Winters has a lovely smooth soprano voice and she sings to the accompaniment of piano and, on occasion, guitar. The sound quality is wonderful, which gives the intimate music a special appeal. Highlights include a snappy 18th century popular song arranged by Federico Garcia Lorca, two mournful traditional Sephardic songs and a haunting Basque folk song.
– Mary Kunz Goldman