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With the release of her fifth album, Embraceable, vocalist Nicole Henry pleasingly brings together a range of stylessmooth and mainstream jazz, along with pop and gospel.
A roster of musicians from diverse jazz backgrounds are featured on various tracks, with standouts including saxophonist Kirk Whalum, harmonicist Gregoire Maret and pianists John Stoddart and Britain's Oli Rockberger, who all contribute mightily. Among the albums's 12 selections, there are four new numbers including three Stoddart gems, and eight standards on which Henry puts her stamp.
Henry kicks off with a dreamy version of Mann/Weil's "Just A Little Lovin," with Maret's languorous harmonica creating the mood. The ambiance continues with Stoddart's soulful ballad, "Anything For You," which builds to a throbbing finish.
Whalum's lush tenor warms up a rocking version of Buddy Johnson's "Since I Fell for You." With Richard Jones' "Trouble In Mind," Henry gives tribute to Aretha Franklin, as Rockberger's solid blues piano brings home its soulful message. On Bob Marley's "Waiting in Vain," the singer subjugates its classic reggae beat, but Maret's harmonica more than compensates as it weaves in and out behind her plaintive voice.
Hitting her peak with Gershwin's "Embraceable you," Henry offers a romantic toast to this staple from The Great American Songbook. She brings it back to the church with her fervid preaching on Stoddart's "A Little Time Alone," as Whalum's wailing sax urges her on from the choir.
The album ends simply, with Christina Aguilera's "Save Me From Myself," Henry's unadorned voice caressing the lyrics, accompanied majestically by Stoddart. Henry's stated mission with this record is to take large steps in new directions, and she accomplishes this with a sweet, accessible voice that serves up lyrical ballads, as well as dishing out large helpings of soulful blues and gospel.
Track Listing: Just A Little Lovin'; Like Someone In Love; Anything For You; Since I Fell For You; Trouble In Mind; Hush Now; Waiting In Vain; Embraceable You; A Day In The Life Of A Fool; Even While You're Gone; A Little Time Alone; Save Me From Myself.
Personnel: Nicole Henry: vocals; John Stoddart: piano, keyboard, Fender Rhodes (1, 3, 4, 7, 10-12 ; Gerald Clayton: piano (2, 9); Oli Rockberger: piano (5, 6); Gil Goldstein: piano (8); Jef Lee Johnson: electric guitar (1, 4, 7, 11); Julian Lage: electric guitar (2, 9); Larry Campbell: acoustic guitar, electric guitar, National Reso-phonic guitar (3, 5, 8, 10); Gregoire Maret: harmonica (1, 7); Kirk Whalum: tenor saxophone (4, 11): Andy Snitzer: alto saxophone (4, 11); Aaron Heick, tenor saxophone, bass flute (4, 7, 8, 11); Lou Marini: flute (7, 8); Tony Katleck: trumpet (4, 11); Michael Davis: trombone (4, 11); Larry Grenadier: acoustic bass; Richard Locker: cello (7, 10, 11); Entchko Todorov: violin (3, 6, 10, 11); Eric Harland: drums; Bashiri Johnson: percussion; (1, 4, 6, 9, 11).
As a songwriter and vocalist, I love jazz for the experience of being in the center of intense creativity. It is the most potent form of music for keeping the artist and the audience in the 'now. Being in the moment is essential for humans, and we need help in learning how to do that. As a songwriter, I need the depth of musicality that jazz voicings can give my stories. My songs seem light and whimsical, but the message is not.
I met my main collaborator, Mark Fitzgibbon, at one of his gigs. I needed to do my first original album, and his playing was masterful, robust, and beautiful. At the time, I didn't realize how suited we were as a team. We're onto our 4rth album together.
My advice to new listeners is to listen to a really clear and simple version of a song so you can then hear what the musicians are doing and enjoy their creativity and musicality. Also, you have to see jazz live to appreciate it fully. You'll never feel it the same way listening to a CD or online. You need the vibration to go through your body to really get it!
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