The title of Carla Cook's latest album refers to the trombone choir she's enlisted to blend with her silky smooth voice. Her natural ability makes this one work. Whether she's scat singing, crooning soft ballads, or spinning acrobatic vocalese, Cook is always on pitch and quite in control. Her expressiveness is what makes her performances special. Cook, who grew up in Detroit, has made the connection between jazz and similar art forms. She made her decision to become a jazz singer while still in the 8th grade.
On Fred Wesley's "For the Elders," Cook fills the role of fourth chair trombone. Her wordless vocals match the trombone trio that well. With ballads such as "Like a Lover" and "Someone to Light Up My Life," she's at the top of her form. But it's snappy scat singing that reveals itself as Cook's greatest strength. Near the finish of "Better than Anything," for example, she moves into a trumpet-like scat vocal that says it all better than words can.
Carla Cook's eclectic program choices reflect her varied background. A degree in Speech Communication and formal training in voice, bass and piano must surely have helped hone her natural skills. Like most singers, exposure to many music forms has made her comfortable with it all. Finding "Ode to Billie Joe" and "Come, Ye Disconsolate" on her jazz album may come as a surprise, but it fits well. Cyrus Chestnut, James Genus and Billy Kilson provide a superb team spirit. More than just a superb follow-up to her It's All About Love debut, Dem Bones reminds us of power that jazz has in its capacity for creating bridges to most other art forms.
Track Listing: The More I See You; Like a Lover; Oh Gee; Dem Bones; Just a Sittin' and a Rockin'; Ode to Billie Joe; Someone to Light Up My Life; For the Elders; Come, Ye Disconsolate; Better than Anything; A Lover's Lullaby.
Personnel: Carla Cook- vocals; Cyrus Chestnut- piano, Fender Rhodes, organ; James Genus- bass; Fred Wesley, Craig Harris, Tyrone Jefferson- trombone; Billy Kilson- drums; Jeffrey Haynes- percussion.
I was first exposed to jazz while working overseas in Africa as a Peace Corps Volunteer. I would listen to the Voice of America on the radio and they had a nightly jazz program on at 10:00pm. I learned a lot about jazz listening to this program. I also had a friend who listened to real jazz by artists like Charles Mingus, Eric Dolphy and Archie Shepp. On my way home from Africa I landed in New York and had the opportunity to see the George Adams/Don Pullen quartet at the Village Vanguard as well as Kenny Barron and Ron Carter at another club, and was in heaven.