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Mercedes Nicole: Beautiful Alignment

C. Michael Bailey By

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Billie Holiday, Ella Fitzgerald, Sarah Vaughn and Nina Simone all make appearances in the biography of Seattle-based singer Mercedes Nicole. She has been a creative face in jazz since the turn of the century, writing, producing and performing tributes to Simone, Etta James, and Dinah Washington. With Beautiful Alignment, Nicole debuts on disc with a collection of songs reflecting her preferences and influences as well as her own original view of jazz vocals.

Leading a trumpet-fronted quartet, Nicole nods at Holiday with "God Bless The Child" and "Good Morning Heartache," while winking at Simone with "Afro Blue," plus a handful of original compositions that sit well beside the canon. Nicole's approach is a simple one: make simple, uncomplicated music with a distilled band playing refined arrangements. Her mantra might be "doing more with less to produce the infinite." Nicole is fond of altering the meter of her delivery as well as the beat pacing. She is comfortable singing about a half beat behind the band.

This approach completely recasts Irving Berlin's "Blue Skies." With an arrangement of descending rhythmic figures alternating with frantic 4/4 pacing, the song is updated in a clever and inventive way. The approach is the scripture on which her own compositions rest. Nicole's bright alto curls within the singer's "Hiding" and "Timeless." Pianist Marc Seales' accompaniment is spare, as are his solos. He endeavors to play only those notes necessary and this pays off. Bassist Evan Flory-Barnes and West Coast-fixture brass specialist Thomas Marriott are always tasteful, never crowding the vocalist while she practices her trade rather well.

Track Listing: Feeling Good; Afro Blue Introduction; Afro Blue; Blackberry Winter; What A Little Moonlight Can Do; God Bless the Child; My Heart is Dancing; Breathe Again; Blue Skies; Timeless; Good Morning Heartache; Hiding.

Personnel: Mercedes Nicole: vocals; Marc Seales: piano; D’Vonne Lewis: drums; Thomas Marriott: trumpet and flugelhorn; Evan Flory-Barnes: bass; Jeff Busch: percussion; Cheryl Wilder, Teresa Wornstaff: background vocals.

Title: Beautiful Alignment | Year Released: 2013 | Record Label: Self Produced

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