It’s hard to decide whether Naima Shamborguer is a bluesy jazz singer or a jazzy blues singer, but it really doesn’t matter. Either way, she’s a very good one, as she proves time and again on A Blossom Sings, which I presume is her debut album, and presume further is on her own label, Shambones.
As this is Shamborguer’s show, it’s a pity her voice is so often overshadowed in the mix by the various instrumentalists who should be there to provide support but sound for the most part like it’s their gig. That’s no fault of theirs, but if I’m Shamborguer and I’m listening to the playback, I’m saying to the engineer, “Hey, couldn’t you give me a little boost and tone down those other guys?” Granted, these are some of the best sidemen and -women the Detroit area has to offer; even so, they shouldn’t be upstaging the headliner. The pianists, even with the soft pedal engaged, sound more like bombardiers than navigators, while the drummers detonate some noisy explosives of their own. Once the undergrowth has been cleared there’s a more than capable singer in the center of the forest, but she can’t be reached without some serious chopping and trimming.
Shamborguer has certainly chosen an interesting program, opening with Duke Pearson’s “Jeannine” (to which she has appended her own lyric) and including seldom-heard essays by Bill Withers (“Hello Like Before”) and Paul Williams (“You and Me Against the World”), vocal versions of Miles Davis’ “So What” and Thelonius Monk’s “Rhythm-a-Ning,” Antonio Carlos Jobim’s “Triste,” Ellington’s “Solitude” and the lovely John Latouche / Jerome Moross ballad, “Lazy Afternoon,” from the Broadway musical The Golden Apple. Shamborguer wrote the rhythmic finale, “Music in the Air,” co-authored the title selection and “Land of Illusion” with pianist Buddy Budson, “Sands of Love” with pianist Pamela Wise,” “Puerto Vallarta” with pianist Felton Sparks. The breezy “Illusion,” which blends a clever lyric and charming melody, is a highlight, as is the peaceful “Lazy Afternoon” (which includes an unlisted “string section,” leading one to believe that a synthesizer was lurking nearby).
Shamborguer has a splendid, well-trained voice, admirable articulation, intonation and pacing, and a pleasingly expressive personality. Listen closely enough and you may be able to hear and appreciate all of those assets.
Track Listing: Jeannine; Hello Like Before; So What; Lazy Afternoon; Rhythm-a-Ning; A Blossom Sings; Land of
Illusion; You and Me Against the World; Triste; Sands of Love; Puerto Vallarta; Solitude; Music in the
Personnel: Naima Shamborguer, vocals; Marcus Belgrave (11), Rayse Biggs (13), trumpet; Wendell Harrison
(6), clarinet; Charlie Gabriel (8, 12), tenor sax; Jerry Mitchell (9, 11), flute; Steve Turre (13),
trombone, shells; Buddy Budson (1-7), Ken Cox (8, 12), Felton Sparks (9, 11), Pam Wise (10, 13),
piano; Steve Carryer (2), Vaughn Klugh (8, 12), Robert Lowe (9, 11), guitar; Marion Hayden (1-7, 10,
13), Dan Pliskow (8, 12), Ralphe Armstrong (9, 11), bass; Bert Myrick (1-8, 12), George Davidson (9,
11), Spider Webb (10), GayeLynn McKinney (13), drums; Juma Santos (8, 13), Mahindi Masi (10,
13), Lorenzo Brown (11), percussion.