Listening to Natalie John's Unveiled
is a jarring, almost alarming experience. It is comparable to a first listen to Tony Williams
(Polydor, 1969), or Miles Davis
on the verge, with his "Lost Quintet" (Chick Corea
, Dave Holland
, Jack DeJohnette
, and Wayne Shorter
), on the recently uncovered It's About That Time
(Columbia, 2001). Those recordings presented music that was in-your-face on the blade edge of drastic change . A similar, though more diffuse trend is happening today in jazz vocals, and Natalie John has staked out a claim on her parcel of the expanding genre.
Rodgers and Hart's "I Didn't Know What Time It Was" appears harmless until played, beginning with Dominic Fallacaro
's electric piano on the verge of too much gain and a militantly marching drum beat from Stuart Bidwell
that has more in common with U2's "New Year's Day" than any 1939 show tune. This is not exactly your parent's version of this standard. John sings with a sardonic flair, perfectly aware that her interpretation is both brilliant and groundbreaking. Fallacaro delivers an acoustic piano solo that is both expansive and flowing, and traditional, but the coda returns to the iconoclastic reading at the song's beginning. Joni Mitchell
's "Hissing of Summer Lawns" never loses sight of it being Mitchell song, but John adds a spectral stare to the piece, buoyed again by the soft fuzziness of Fallacaro's electric piano.
John penned the rest of the disc's eight selections, her orchestral and modern writing coupled, most often, with Fallacaro. "Veils of Innocence" sounds more standard than the standard, given to flights of background vocal experimentation, but the real eyeopener is "Aphasia," an oddly timed cataclysm, with Fallacaro's electric piano and Travis Reuter
's guitar simpatico in accompanying John's roaming, schizo-form melody. John and Reuter spar, giving way to a guitar solo out of a cutting contest between John McLaughlin
and Shawn Lane
in an opium dream. This is what exciting music is: challenging and eye opening.
Personnel: Natalie John: vocals; Dominic Fallacaro: keyboards; Aidan Carroll: bass;
Stuart Bidwell: drums; Travis Reuter: guitar.