Musical genres become extraneous on Presence,
as originals, standards, folk, and R&B are transformed, through diva Lisa Sokolov’s texturally thick tones and changing tempos, into emotionally powerful encounters. Set in the context of a piano trio, Sokolov uses her lyrical dynamism, vocal range and innovative command of rhythm and phrasing to expand the boundaries of this conventional format.
The title piece is an original multitracked singing experience that sucks you in like a cyclone and then hurtles and lifts you higher and higher as the vocals envelop. Sokolov is adept at seizing upon what might otherwise be unnoticed aspects of a melody or lyric and artfully improvising upon them through stylistic and verbal free association creating compelling new compositions. William Parker’s “Hopefully” is turned into a powerful a capella vocal excursion whose religious fervor resurrects Janis Joplin, while the jazz/blues underpinnings of “Chain of Fools” are exposed in a stripped down piano trio arrangement.
Both “Home on the Range” and “Oh What a Beautiful Morning” become vehicles to pensively uplift, as Sokolov dovetails “Rise and Shine” into the latter and flavors the former with a modicum of Irving Berlin’s “Blue Skies.” Cole Porter’s “You Do Something to Me” is a bass/vocal repartee with quickly shifting rhythms that has bassist Cameron Brown keeping up with Sokolov’s scat calisthenics. Pianist John DiMartino is also able to meet the demands of Sokolov’s stylistic deviations. He plays “out” on freer cuts like “Hard Being Human,” provides a classical/jazz feel to “For All We Know,” and contributes the appropriate speed-demon piano to “When I Die.” Sokolov wonderfully personalizes that Laura Nyro chestnut by adding to it a mother’s awe at the birth of her child that then transitions to a version of the traditional “Rock My Soul.” Being in the Presence of Lisa Sokolov will alter your conception of a female jazz vocalist.
This review originally appeared in AllAboutJazz-New York .
Track Listing: 1. Presence (Sokolov) - 4:48
2. Hopefully [live] (Parker) - 1:59
3. Oh, What a Beautiful Morning (Hammerstein/Rodgers) - 4:00
4. You Do Something to Me (Porter) - 2:54
5. Chain of Fools (Covay) - 4:50
6. Hard Being Human [live] (Sokolov) - 5:26
7. Sons Of (Blau/Brel/Jouannest/Shuman) - 4:11
8. Water Lilies (Sokolov) - 3:32
9. And When I Die [live] (Nyro) - 6:41
10. As It Is [live] (Kunitz/Sokolov) - 5:11
11. For All We Know [live] (Coots/Lewis) - 5:58
12. Home on the Range (Traditional) - 2:54
Personnel: Gerry Hemingway - Drums;
Cameron Brown - Bass;
Lisa Sokolov - Keyboards, Vocals;
John Di Martino - Piano.