Nnenna Freelon: Tales of Wonder: Celebrating Stevie Wonder (2002)
For her latest album, Nnenna Freelon has set aside what she calls the music of her parents to pay tribute to one of the most talented artists of her day, Stevie Wonder. For me, this album is a curious homage. Instead of capturing the joy of Wonder's music, Freelon sings as if she were worshiping at a temple erected to honor of the composer. The arrangements are heavy, spiritual and muddy, lacking any crispness. Some of her interpretations of Wonder's works are unique to say the least. "The Tears of a Clown" has a spiritual tinge to it with Freelon's vocals rising above, slightly dissonant, a seemingly disorganized arrangement with Jason Crosby's violin leading the way along with a truck load of electronically created instrumentation. The same is true of "My Cherie Amour", with the guitar of Chuck Loeb being the major non electronically created back up. Freelon is an incredibly gifted singer and Wonder...well Wonder is Wonder. One would think this should have been a musical marriage made in heaven. But it just didn't work out that way to my ears. When one hears Wonder made music, one expects one's toes to tap, shoulders to move and hips to sway or heart strings to be tugged. With the exception of "Bird of Beauty", instead of swaying and tapping, there's a lot of plodding going on.
Freelon's web page is at http://www.freelon.com/nnenna.
Track Listing: Overjoyed; Creepin'; Lately; Superstition; The Tears of a Clown; Black Orchid; My Cherie Amour; Bird of Beauty; All in Love Is Fair; Send One Your Love; Another Star; Until You Come Back to Me
Personnel: Nnenna Freelon - Vocals; Gerry Niewood - Flute, Alto Flute, Soprano & Tenor Sax; Ronnie Buttacavoli - Trumpet; Brandon McCune - Piano, Hammond B3 Organ, Fender Rhodes Piano; Dave Samuels - Vibes/Marimba; Chuck Loeb - Acoustic & Electric Guitar; Gerald Veasley - Electric & Acoustic Bass; Woody Williams - Drums; Bashiri Johnson - Percussion; Enrico Granafei - Harmonica; Jason Crosby, Andy Stein - Violin