When bassist Janet Evra dropped her debut solo record in the fall of 2018, she gifted something special to the residents of her adopted hometown. A veteran of the St. Louis circuit, Evra has made a name for herself on the scene vis-à-vis her Brazilian-heavy repertoire and charming voice. Many hours spent poring over the discographies of Antonio Carlos Jobim, Stan Getz and Astrud Gilberto have manifested alongside Evra's distinct brand of modern pop to form Ask Her to Dance, the bassist's amiable prescription against the Midwest's most washed-out November days.
There's nothing complex about the album; it is a straightforward, uncontrived, light-hearted venture. But as effervescent as it may be, it is a work worth taking seriously. Evra has a strong songwriting sense and she has the technical abilities to transform would-be marginally acceptable pop tunes into things more substantial. More than this, she has an ability to pull musicians together in a powerhouse ensemble.
All of the tracks featured on Ask Her to Dance are Evra originals and her literal and figurative voices ring clear on each track. Every part of her performance is warm, clean, and consistentthis is one of the great joys of Evra and the project as a whole. The bossa fiend will enjoy dissecting the album's influences, but it is easy to be taken in by the bassist's featured colleagues. On "You or Me," drummer Montez Coleman lays down a hypnotic beat ahead of pianist Adam Maness's Hammond B3. Buchanan and Evra work in soft tandem, creating the glowing groundwork for Khamali Cuffie-Moore's whispered trumpet sound. "Summer Smile" is the highlight of the album. Evra's lyrics are endearingly infectious, but it is the sheer musicianship of the track that makes it worth filing away in the mental Rolodex. Each player is in top form, while Evra's every vocal phrase seems to be punctuated with a smile that cheekily gives away the tone of the whole record.
Ask Her to Dance is everything a debut needs to be.
Paris; You or Me; Blue and White; Tonight; Baila; Summer Smile; Just Playing; Thinking of You; Ask Her to Dance.
Janet Evra: bass; Will Buchanan: guitar; Adam Maness: piano: Khamali Cuffie-Moore: trumpet; Kwane Johnson: saxophone; R. Scott Bryan: percussion; Montez Coleman: drums.
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