Rani Singam: Contentment (2011)
Singer Rani Singam has been a leading figure on the Singapore jazz scene for a number of years, specializing in the jazz standards of yore. Her strong vocals and fine interpretive skills have also made her sought after at festivals in the region, so it is something of a bold move to break the mold and cut an album which has eight originals out of ten compositions. Co-written and arranged by longtime Singam collaborator, keyboardist Kerong Chok, the tone of the music does reflect Singam's love affair with the Great American Songbook, though with a slightly more contemporary edge.
Singam is in introspective mood, her lyrics dealing with longing, the inner path to personal freedom, daring to dream, and living for the moment without fear of tomorrow. "Just as the moon appears so will come the sun. Cross the rivers one by one," she sings on the most contemporary sounding of the tracks, the powerful "One by One." There's a blue tonality in Singam's voice, and a sense of power reminiscent of Ella Fitzgerald, an undoubted influence. Singam uses the big notes sparingly, however, preferring to seek the emotional nuance in the flow of words and music.
Singam swings her band on the up-tempo "Happily Ever After." With double bassist Martin Nevin and drummer Jake Goldbas keeping solid time, guitarist Andrew Lim carves out a bluesy solo, full of his trademark lyricism. Singam allows ample space to her musicians, and Chok follows with a lovely Hammond B3 solo. His B3 features large throughout the CD, lending urgency, warmth and color, though he also shows real refinement as a piano accompanist on the ballad "My Muse" and produces a fine solo on "Frailty." Saxophonist Chad Lefkowitz-Brown impresses on soprano sax on Chok's original arrangement of the Gershwins "The Man I Love." At seven minutes, there's a spacious, unhurried feel to the arrangement, though Singam's rousing finale, buoyed and lifted by Lefkowitz-Brown's soprano, is stirring.
Michel LeGrand's "What Are You Doing for the Rest of your Life?" is a stripped downand slightly ponderousarrangement, and a feature for Singam. Chad-Lefkowitz's intervention on tenor saxophone, however, steals the show. More satisfying, vocally speaking is Swiss composer Urs Ramseyer's "Daybreak." Singam's compelling performance is punctuated by wonderful guitar work from Lim. "Longing" is a seductive number, with Singam's measured delivery one of her best performances of the CD; Chad-Lefkowitz and Lim once again shine in short but telling interventions. "You'll Never Have to Dance Alone," a coursing samba, rounds out an impressive set.
On the title track, Singam sings: "When there's no fear or doubt, everything is light, and everything turns into gold." Singam has followed her inner voice, and the result is a vibrant recording of authentic, contemporary vocal jazza little bit of gold. Hopefully, Singam will continue to follow her muse and pursue this path as lyricist and singer-songwriter, conditioned by jazz vocal tradition certainly, but unbound.
Track Listing: Happily Ever After; Contentment; One by One; The Man I Love; My Muse; Longing; Daybreak; Frailty' What are you Doing for the Rest of your Life?; You'll Never Have to Dance Alone.
Personnel: Rani Singam: vocals; Kerong Chok: Hammond B3, piano, tambourine; Andrew Lim: guitar; Jake Goldbas: drums, percussion; Chad Lefkowitz-Brown:saxophones; Martin Nevin: double bass.
Record Label: Inflexion Lines