Amazon.com Widgets

Raising Vision and Voice

By Published: | 4,254 views
Decades ago, Archie Shepp
Archie Shepp
Archie Shepp
b.1937
saxophone
and Sun Ra
Sun Ra
Sun Ra
1914 - 1993
keyboard
were among the first musicians to expand their vision for the human voice beyond the traditional verse-chorus-verse song structure. Today, through digital sampling and other technology, musicians incorporate and manipulate the human voice in ways that even these two iconoclasts might not recognize. At the same time, the profound simplicity of a singer-songwriter baring and sharing their soul through popular song structure still endures. Composer Richard Strauss once wrote, "The human voice is the most beautiful instrument of all, but it is the most difficult to play." Here's a look at some recent titles that master the art.

I Can See Bliss From Here Lili Añel
I Can See Bliss from Here
Wall-I Records
2013

With I Can See Bliss From Here, singer-songwriter Lili Anel
Lili Anel
Lili Anel

vocalist
presents a set of personal songs that deeply touch the listener's ear, mind and soul, and bring to mind the confessional yet universal genius of such songwriters as Tracy Chapman, Phoebe Snow
Phoebe Snow
Phoebe Snow
1952 - 2011
vocalist
and Roberta Flack—they really are that well-written. "These are the songs I want to put out to the world at this time," she says simply. "It's what I wrote. They reflect where I am right now."

I Can See Bliss From Here reflects all the hustle and bustle of Añel's own life: As her bio explains, she's "a New York-born Cuban-African American" who has lived the past decade in Philadelphia, where she befriended pianist Dale Melton, who co-produced Bliss, her sixth release. "We have much in common," Añel explains. "A love of the music by The Band
The Band
The Band
b.1967
band/orchestra
, among others, and a shared ideology of community in music." (Lili and Dale are both identical twins, too.)

"Something to Do" tells the story of how she grew up in Harlem ("I was born and raised in the barrio on 110th Street," she begins) atop a chugging Latin rhythm spiced with horns. Añel then recalls her mother, who worked to support her family six days out of seven and died in her early 50s, and shares a wonderfully self-effacing (not self-pitying) verse about her shaved head and the autoimmune disease Alopecia Areata, which causes hair loss): "I shaved my head bald today. You see, most of my hair had fallen out anyway. And when people laugh at me, I just smile because I believe they're just scared it could be them instead of me."

A song to her son, "The Best Part of Me (Song for Joey)" swims in deceptively deep, shifting musical and emotional currents ("On the day that you were born, my heart melted")—a beautiful idea, beautifully played and sung.

But Bliss also lifts Añel's vision to more broad horizons. Her moaning vocal and Tom Hampton's groaning guitar scrape out the raw and ragged, tough as nails "Go Home," a contemporary blues that begins with the story of how she was "written up at work" because she "laughed too loud" but ends with her calling on the heavens to take her home for good. Liner notes by New York Music Hall of Fame Director Robbie Woliver call this "the album's biggest revelation, (is) an infectious field-holler-styled blues lament that takes modern-day work drudgery to another level."

Because this entire set is about carrying on in the face of circumstances that suggest you'd be better off packing it in, "Losing My Faith" might have been this set's title track. Its chorus is this set's most beautiful melody, and frees Añel's voice to float and soar like a songbird. It's a tribute to her creativity and spirit that Lili Añel Can See Bliss From Here.

Fire in the Brain Live at Berklee 2013 Club d'Elf
Fire in the Brain Live at Berklee
birnCORE
2013

"To thine own self be true" is a reliable expression, and few band biographies are more true to their subject than the official label writeup on the marvelously twisted Club d'Elf: "Circling about bassist/composer Mike Rivard (Morphine, Either/Orchestra
Either/Orchestra
Either/Orchestra
b.1985
band/orchestra
, Guster, Boston Pops), D'Elf is a constellation of top musicians from the jazz, DJ, rock and world music scenes of Boston and NYC who get in the groove and proceed to blow it up."

Fire in the Brain presents a fevered d'Elf performance recorded in July 2012 Live at Berklee in their Boston hometown. Rivard is joined by longstanding partners in making "d'Elf music": Dean Johnston on acoustic and electric drums, DJ/turntablist Mister Rourke, Allain Mallet on keyboards and a melodica that sings both sweet and spooky, and guitarists Randy Roos and David Tronzo
David Tronzo
David Tronzo
b.1957
guitar
.


comments powered by Disqus
Support All About Jazz Through Amazon

Weekly Giveaways

Michael Carvin

Michael Carvin

About | Enter

Steve Wilson/Lewis Nash

Steve Wilson/Lewis Nash

About | Enter

Tom Chang

Tom Chang

About | Enter

Cedar Walton

Cedar Walton

About | Enter

Sponsor: ECM Records | BUY NOW