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Five Women V – Kathleen Potton, Ariel Pocock, Christina Morrison, Michelle Bradley, Donna E. Scott, Kellye Gray

C. Michael Bailey By

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There is no end to very good jazz vocals.

Kathleen Potton
Nero
Self Produced
2017

Australian-born singer/songwriter Kathleen Potton's debut recording Nero is a sly nod in the direction of female singer/songwriters who came before. The title refers to the Laura Nyro ("Eli's Coming," Stoned Soul Picnic") and the disc contains eight original compositions and a sweeping cover of Joni Mitchell's "Chelsea Morning." Potton's compositional style reflects both of these artists as influences. Musically, Nero exists on the razor's edge of adult contemporary fare. Her lyrics smack of today as well as the music supporting them. Potton worked with bassist/guitarist Alan Hampton, whose deft touch produced a plush seamlessness in the disc's sonic character. Joined by pianist Frank LoCrasto, drummer Bill Campbell and fellow Australian guitarist Ben Eunson, the band produced a fertile environment for Potton's appealing, coquettishly modern voice. Her voice is well suited for the thorough production the recording gets at the hands of Hampton. There exists an established undercurrent of R&B beneath these fully messaged performances. The title piece is as fresh as a cosmopolitan enjoyed seaside, as is the remainder of the recording. This is an impressive debut.

Ariel Pocock
Living in Twilight
Justin Time
2017

Supported with a guitarist Chico Pinheiro and a rhythm section of bassist Adrian Vedady and drummer Jim Doxas, the youthful pianist and vocalist Ariel Pocock immediately takes the road less traveled interpreting originals and standards in a most contemporary Monkish manner. Following her forward-thinking debut Touchstone (Justin Time Records, 2015) Pocock's performance manner is refreshing and crisp and increasingly inventive. She shows no fear in applying the theory of relativity to the timing and tempo of her performances. I allude to Thelonious Monk to highlight Pocock toying with time, reconfiguring pieces less from a harmonic point of view and more from an arrangement/rhythmic one. "The Very Thought of You" is rhythmically deconstructed and present as a rush-hour traffic soundtrack, in which Pocock sings with a certain staccato swing, stop and go and beautifully unpredictable. Pocock's voice is delightfully quirky in the best sense of that word. Her singing and piano playing is seamless, flowing one into the other. Living In Twilight is a crepuscular medication with a light Latin accent that is as infectious as it is creative.

Michelle Bradley
Body and Soul
Merry Lane Records
2017

Michelle Bradley is an opera singer who made her Metropolitan Opera debut as Cretan in Mozart's Idomeneo in the 2016-2017 season and is appearing as Clotilde in Bellini's Norma in the 2017-2018 season. That said, she does not let that get away from her when interpreting jazz standards. It is an occupational hazard of hyper-trained operatic singers to bring a bit (too much) of their classical fireworks to the jazz stage. It is very obvious that Bradley's voice is well trained, she does not show off. For example, she amply displays an impressive vocal range on Oliver Nelson's "Stolen Moments," but does so with style and grace. She presents "How High the Moon" lyrically and with taste, while getting down with "Yardbird Suite." Bradley's accompaniment is simple, as it should be, hosting such a fine voice. Balladwise, Bradley excels on "Moonlight in Vermont," while taking "Misty" over the top and into the atmosphere. Body and Soul is a nice start for a very talented singer.

Donna E. Scott
Carnival
Self Produced
2017

Kicked off with the humid sway of Dehner Franks' title piece, the listener might be lulled into believing that this is yet one more homage to Brazil. But it is not and leader Donna E. Scott's crack pianism proves it on this same cut. Following "Carnival," with its slippery flute playing by Wouter Kellerman, is the period piece, "Pennies from Heaven," replete with swinging big band support and Scott's expert voice, reviving the Johnny Burke and Arthur Johnson classic. "It's Your Smile" is one-hundred percent adult contemporary. "I Don't Stand a Ghost of a Chance" is beautifully arranged and orchestrated, giving singer Scott a sepia vision through which to interpret the song. Highly stylized and produced, Carnival is brightly cast sonically with a progressive musicality aimed at appealing to a broad swath of the adult listening public. This "On Green Dolphin Street" is a show stopper with a whiplash swing.

Kellye Gray
Rendering
Grr8 Records
2017

This recording is a great idea. Jazz vocalist Kellye Gray, whose career spans the past two decades, was give ownership of her first recording, Standards in Gray (Grr8 Records, 1992/2017). The cool thing she does is include this recording with her most recent, Rendering. It is nothing short of a divine revelation to listen to the former after the latter. Standards in Gray sports easily the most compelling performance of Miles Davis' "All Blues" with Clare Fischer lyrics I have heard, making me wonder where I have been with Kellye Gray. The worthy exercise to do here is listen to the cuts each release has in common: "How Long Has This Been Going On," "How Insensitive," and "Good Morning Heartache." On Standards in Gray emerges fully formed and precocious, with the most accomplished chops, vocal, vocalese, and scat. She is the complete package, from beginning to end. What emerges on Rendering is the only thing that can, maturity, poise, and accomplishment.

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