Vocalist Michelle Lordi's house burned down at the end of 2017. That is a bracing life event from which one may find oneself at a brutally curious fork in the road. Lordi's Break Up With the Sound makes it seem that she blazed through Kubler Ross's five stages of loss and got to work on something so new, it smelled of white-hot creation. Lordi's modus operandi has been addressing the Great American Songbook, as evidenced by her densely competent Dream a Little Dream (Self Produced, 2017). With great standards chops, Lordi held her own in the increasingly clotted field of jazz vocals. Break Up With the Sound addresses American country music with more authority and grit than Norah Jones (who, indeed has her charms in that regard) while remaining in a jazz realm. Yes, Lordi assimilated personal loss into a personal statement with a little burn to it.
The recording is built within its beginning and ending. Lordi closes the disc with Hank Williams "I'm So Lonesome I Could Cry." She opens the disc with "Poor Bird," her answer to Williams who, in his cups, has "lost his will to live." Lordi scoffs, "Break up with the sound, the one that's got you down has gone away." That is the defiant tone of this recording. Her defiance extends to the standard jazz combo; she replaces the traditional piano with the deep-searching guitar of Tim Motzer, whose forlorn, out-of-focus guitar redefines things darkly (as on "Wayward Wind").
Forward-thinking tenor saxophonist Donny McCaslin is a highlight of several selections; "Double-Crossed," an original shared by Lordi and guitarist Motzer, has McCaslin weaving among a completely contemporary sonic wilderness. Lordi's "Before" allows Motzer an anxiously melodic solo, navigating Lordi's harmonic landscape. Appropriately, Motzer provides some celestial slide guitar playing on the Rolling Stones' "No Expectations." Lordi makes it his kiss-off hymn to loss, thereby taking back her life after. The other principal on the disc, longtime Lordi collaborator and bassist Matthew Parrish, produced the recording, as well as providing the menacing rumble beneath "Poor Bird" and the propulsion and solo on "Lover Man," sparring with McCaslin in the introduction. Lordi is tired of playing around and Break Up With the Sound is proof.
Poor Bird; Wayward Wind; Double-Crossed; True Love; Before; No Expectations; Lover Man; Red
House Serenata; Red House Blues; I'm So Lonesome.
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