Carolyn Nelson: Come a Little Closer (2010)
Nelson draws bedrock support from pianist Steve Rudolph, bassist Steve Varner and drummer Erik Johnson, with guests including guitarist Paul Bollenback and percussionist Doc Gibbs. Bollenback displays considerable jazz chops, having previously recorded and performed with the likes of guitarist Charlie Byrd and saxophonist Stanley Turrentine; percussionist Gibbs' resume includes sessions with bassist Charles Fambrough, pianist Bob James and singer Erykah Badu.
Nelson brings it with jazz chops, too. She bravely calls her first tune, "I Don't Know Enough About You," from the Peggy Lee songbook (co-written with David Barbour, Lee's guitarist husband) and impeccably sings it undeterred by Lee's imposing legacy. Next, she pulls the dark shadows out from Cole Porter's brilliant "It's All Right With Me," flattening some notes, stretching out others, to make it sound sad and blue. Nelson just sings this so well: she toys with the phrase "it's all right" like a kitten's ball of yarn, and then leaves it hanging unresolved, the opening for Rudolph's piano solo to enter. Later, she polishes Porter's peppy "Just One of Those Things" with all the brightness of Rosemary Clooney.
In the rollicking "Hyde Side Blues," Bollenback and Rudolph roll out the blues carpet for Nelson's plea toward a gentleman who insists on behaving just a little too gentlemanly! Her rhythmically playful delivery and Brazilian percussion make Jon Hendricks' lyrics to the samba "O Pato (The Duck)," about waterfowl learning to dance, sound even more fun. Nelson's triumphant romp through Hendricks' vocal arrangement for Miles Davis' "Four," in tandem with vocalists Paul Jost and Wendy Simon, provides her tour-de-force for Come a Little Closer.
If a bubbling mountain spring, so crystal brilliant that it nearly blinds you, spoke in a human voice, it would probably sound much like Carolyn Nelson's. Crisp and pure, and refreshingly beautiful.
Track Listing: I Don't Know Enough About You; It's All Right With Me; Just One of Those Things; O Pato (The Duck); I Didn't Know About You; Dans Ses Yeux (In His Eyes); The Gypsy in My Soul; Too Close for Comfort; Two for the Road; Hyde Side Blues; Four; Nobody's Heart.
Personnel: Carolyn Nelson: vocals; Steve Rudolph: piano; Steve Varner: bass; Erik Johnson: drums; Paul Bollenback: guitar; Roger Prieto: trumpet, flugelhorn; Doc Gibbs: percussion; Wendy Simon: vocals; Paul Jost: vocals.
Record Label: Self Produced