It's always a challenge to introduce a new artist, no matter how deserving or talented, without tripping over the usual litany of music journalist cliches. But jazz vocalist Alma Micic, though still young, really is the real deal in the making; self-assured both rhythmically and harmonically, she swings, has a great sense of space and time, and chooses happening material while avoiding the usual overworn vocalist cliche tunes. She also writes and even scats convincingly.
Micic is clear, confident, soulful, vulnerable, rhythmically savvy, with the most sensual vibrato you're likely to hear, combined with a unique approach and sense of intonation, especially on balladseg. "Something to Live For"which all makes for a very original presentation, most especially on ballads. There she'll pull you into a world of her own making, one you'll gladly revisit with the anxious richness of reconnecting with a long lost love, and finding what you hadn't the first time.
Standouts include "I Remember You," a haunting piano/vocal arrangement of "Day Dream," "Close Your Eyes," a blusey reading of "Yesterdays," and the gorgeous "But Beautiful." "Quiet Nights/Corcovado" is tight and unique at its chosen tempo, as its taken as a samba rather than the usual bossa. It's as up as I've ever heard it, but works as a rhythm section thing, all except for making the lead appear rushed (though she's not), in contrast to the complete relaxation of the rest of the record.
Among the surprises are an inspired take on Shorter's "Infant Eyes" and her own original, "That April Day." A beautiful piece that's perfect for her.
By sixteen Micic was lead vocalist with the Belgrade Radio Big Band in her native Serbia. By twenty she'd performed at jazz fests all over Europe, eventually graduating from Berklee College of Music with honors. She now resides in New York, where she formed her current gigging/recording band, consisting of pianist Brandon McCune (who at times evokes comparisions with Red Garland, Herbie Hancock, even Bill Evans, with certain harmonic touches and runs), bassist Sean Conly, and drummer Israel Bannerman.
Though the group supports Micic ("Mee-cheech") with warmth, empathy, and maturity, they at times interact with her more as if she were more another instrument. This makes for a sense of greater possibilities, a sense of respect for the leader, and more interesting rapport all around. Sort of a balance between respectful sensitivity and assertion. If this is what a first effort sounds like, this would clearly be a band to see liveas soon as possible.
Personnel: Alma Micic: vocals; Brandon McCune: piano;
Sean Conly: bass; Israel Bannerman: drums.