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Nicky Schrire: Freedom Flight

Bruce Lindsay By

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Freedom Flight is the debut from vocalist Nicky Schrire, a young singer who was born in London, raised in Cape Town and now resides in New York. It's a distinctive debut, heralding the welcome arrival to the scene of a fine vocalist with an eclectic range of source material—a mix of Latin, pop, folk, and American Songbook songs, plus a couple of Schrire originals.

Schrire's voice is lovely—pure and clear, a mix of naïve innocence and sensuality. She's blessed with the ability to convey a lyric with conviction, inhabiting the narrative so completely that even a slight change of tone or emphasis seems to tell a story on its own. Her core trio of musicians helps greatly: pianist Nick Paul, drummer Jake Goldbas and bassist Sam Anning are sympathetic accompanists, heightening the impact of the vocals and never overwhelming Schrire's performance.

Schrire is fond of wordless vocals, often using them to introduce a song or as an "instrumental break" from the lyrics. These vocals are always delivered with enthusiasm and verve—her opening duet with clarinetist Jay Rattman on Carlo Mombelli's "Me, The Mango Picker" is a particular delight—but, while this could almost be considered as her trademark, it's a technique that would have greater impact if it were used more sparingly.

The American Songbook's representative on Freedom Flight is Lerner and Loewe's "If Ever I Would Leave You," which Schrire sings accompanied solely by Peter Eldridge on piano. The performance is stunning, capturing the song's mood perfectly. At the contemporary end of the spectrum there's Florence And The Machine's beautiful "Cosmic Love." Schrire's gorgeous acoustic version demonstrates that great songs have an emotional power that doesn't depend on complex orchestrations or production. The singer's own songs—the sad and lonely "Ode To A Folk Song" and the cheerfully optimistic "Journey"—are both indicative of her talent as a writer.

The contributions of three great North American singer/songwriters are also noteworthy. Schrire gives Loudon Wainwright's witty "The Swimming Song" the light-hearted narrative it requires, while on James Taylor's optimistic, feel-good, "Shower The People" Eldridge joins Schrire on vocals, multi-tracked to give added depth. Most intriguing is Schrire's take on Bob Dylan's "Don't Think Twice, It's Alright." She keeps things recognizable, but the arrangement is much gentler and more forgiving than Dylan's approach, while her phrasing of the lyrics gives a subtle shift in emphasis towards regret. Paul Jones' tenor solo also adds a fresh musical flavor to the song.

In the crowded world of jazz vocals it helps to have a distinctive voice or a distinctive repertoire. Schrire scores on both counts, making Freedom Flight one of the best debut recordings of 2012.

Track Listing: Freedom Flight/Blackbird; Journey; Cosmic Love; If Ever I Would Leave You; Ode To A Folk Song; Sleep Away; The Swimming Song; E Preciso Perdoar; Me, The Mango Picker; Shower The People; Don't Think Twice, It's All Right.

Personnel: Nicky Schrire: vocals; Nick Paul: piano; Sam Anning: bass; Jake Goldbas: drums, percussion; Paul Jones: tenor saxophone (5, 11); Jay Rattman: clarinet (6, 9); Brian Adler: percussion (7); Peter Eldridge: piano (4), vocals (10).

Title: Freedom Flight | Year Released: 2012 | Record Label: Circavision Productions

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