Alma Naidu, a 26 year old songwriting vocalist based in Munich, has crafted a first rate debut showcasing an abundance of talent and a top-notch supporting team. German drummer Wolfgang Haffner produced this introductory gem and adds percussive precision in contributing a consistently subtle touch of the sticks. Well-aligned arrangements help keep the focus on Naidu, who shines throughout the record's 47:28 duration.
The majority of pieces are backed by a core trio of Haffner, bassist Claus Fischer, and pianist Simon Oslender. The sterling crew of supporting musicians includes special guests Lars Danielsson on cello, trombonist Nils Landgren, and guitarist Dominic Miller adding to the optimal mix. Naidu recently demonstrated the range of her prodigious pipes in more abstract projects like the recent Jazzrausch Bigband's fine Techne (ACT, 2021). The songs here seem especially personal for a connection resounding with gentle authority that proves a stirring soundscape can be achieved with only a whisper.
"Just a Word" sets the tone with solo piano accompaniment that projects a portrait of the songwriter composing at the keyboard. The subtle intensity of Naidu's control during "Hold On to Me" is underlined by Haffner's cascading cymbals in a cadence of brush work. Billy Joel's "And So It Goes" is the only song Naidu didn't write, a cover that fits very well with Naidu's musical sense. Haffner added the music on "Wondering." All other compositions and lyrics are credited to Naidu.
"Illusion" is the album's standout, a very radio friendly cut that was featured as a single (there are numerous jazz-based stations in Germany). Naidu's voice proves consistently engaging and it is not hard to be enchanted after just a few songs. Supplemental vocals are employed sparingly, with stand out precision, while she and the excellent production team achieve resounding resonance on songs like the charming "Something 'Bout the Rain" or "Another Kind of Love." Oslender adds electric keys to "White Tulip" and "Heart Pace" along a traditional modern jazz format. "Walberla" changes the formula, with Naidu accompanied by only a pair of basses that amp up the tonal variance. Dual basses are also employed on "Silence Plays Your Song."
This isn't a full tilt party album, but it does provide plenty to celebrate through songs that clearly come from the heart. Naidu has delivered a fine, highly romantic showcase to inspire bliss that is is quite sentimental but not at all sappy. She may be relatively unknown outside her native Germany, but if artistic justice is served her audience will soon grow.
Just a Word; Hold On to Me; Something 'Bout the Rain; And So It Goes; Illusion; Interlude; Silence
Song; Heart Pace; Walberla; Wandering; White Tulip; Another Kind of Love.
Nils Landgren: trombone; Dominic Miller: guitar; Thomas Stieger: bass; Christopher Dell: Vibes;
Lars Danielsson: cello;
backing vocals, Florian Stierstorfer: backing vocals, Ann-Katrin Naidu: backing vocals.
| Year Released: 2022
| Record Label: Leopard
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