Nigerian-born Douye grew up in Lagos as part of a music-loving family. She joined the church choir where her grandmother was musical director and quickly became aware of her love and affinity for singing. It was her father though who passed on his love of jazz to her. He traveled often and brought home the latest records and news of the jazz world. This included all sorts of music like African jazz and Brazilian bossa nova. For many years she spent half the year in England with her family all the while absorbing this melting pot of world music which gave her the unique perspective found in her singing.
Douye's father died when she was 11 years old. "The last time I saw him, he was at the hospital and he told me that he wanted me to promise him that I would sing jazz after I became a woman." At 18, she moved to Los Angeles to pursue a music career. She enrolled at the Musicians' Institute to study voice and with her abilities and work ethic was able to network and meet people who would be instrumental in furthering her career. This eventually led to the release of her first two albums which were more in the jazzy R&B mode. She was finally able to fulfill her promise to her father in 2017 with her release, Daddy Said So, an album of 14 standards. It featured a stellar cast of musicians such as Kenny Barron, Ron Carter, Russell Malone and John Clayton.
Her third jazz effort, The Golden Sèkère, shows a mature artist exuding self-confidence in both her abilities and approach in putting this record together. The 14 tracks are all well-worn standards, but it is the intricate and varied arrangements of these songs that allow her to showcase her diverse styles and musical personality. The opener, "Cherokee," starts with an African talking drum before Douye and the rhythm section enter. She sings it in a slow, subtle manner until the horns arrive, providing texture before the solos begin. "Speak Low" is arranged in a syncopated, percussive way, with some Latin percussion providing the rhythm. She sings whimsically while a flute punctuates the underlying feel.
"The Very Thought Of You" and "I'm Confessing That I Love You" are imagined in guitar, bass and percussion only setting. The former starts with a simple pulsating bass that continues throughout the tune while the guitar and percussion accompany Douye's warm, sultry vocal. The latter features Lionel Loueke accompanying her on two separate guitar parts. One provides a simple background, while the other provides an atmospheric, ethereal touch behind a lovely, sensual, soulful vocal. The other small group track, "Devil May Care" consists of guest Buster Williams on bass and an African percussionist. Williams swings the hell out of the song. Along with the percussive rhythm underneath, Douye is provided the space to examine the lyric of a woman living her life without regrets.
"My Funny Valentine" is sung in a quiet, vulnerable manner. It begins with a marching, dirge-like drum and bass line before the piano enters. Guest trumpeter Sean Jones is magnificent playing behind Douye and also provides a thoughtful solo.
The rest of the record is made up of larger ensemble arrangements. "It Don't Mean A Thing" is a swinging, big-band romp. Douye's singing is strong and effortless here. Another Duke Ellington song, "Azure" is written in a dense, polyrhythmic manner where her vocals seem to float above the music. "Green Dolphin Street" is a nonet, replete with horns and percussion. It is a sweet, nostalgic take on the standard.
"I've Got You Under My Skin" is here twice. The first is a brassy, big-band Brazilian affair. The second version closes the album out. It is laid-back and soulful, reminiscent of the way Sade might sing it. The contrast between both is interesting as it shows Douye's versatility in song approach and style. The former is brash and confident, while the latter shows her smoky and sexy side.
Douye's singing sensibilities, along with the record's wonderful, unique arrangements make this release an enjoyable addition to the jazz vocal canon and would make her father proud. An interview with her can be found here.
Cherokee; Speak Low; The Very Thought of You; My Funny Valentine; I’ve Got You Under My Skin; Fly Me to The Moon; Afro Blue; It Don’t Mean A Thing; Green Dolphin Street; I’m Confessing That I Love You; Key Largo; Azure; Devil May Care; I’ve Got You Under My Skin.
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