Grace Darling is your standard tenor sax-playing vocalist, and Imaginary Lover is just another one of those discs where the leader plays tenor sax and sings in front of New Orleans funk-gospel backbeats. Seriously, that this accomplished singer plays sax at all (or should that be "that this accomplished saxophonist sings at all"?) is intriguing; the fact that she does both quite well makes this a superb funk-jazz recording.
Darling's vocals are stylistically more pop- than jazz-oriented, but check out the beginning of "You're My Imaginary Lover," which sounds a little like the startup of "Stairway to Heaven." Darling can communicate a feeling with the best of them (This track was co-written, by the way, by Al Kooper, the giant of Sixties electric blues). Darling doesn't pick up the saxophone until the fourth track, "Going Nowhere Fast," but she plays it on all six of the remaining tracks. Her playing is firmly in the R&B tradition: funky but bright and sharp in tone, like Coltrane. She's able to make it sing over the deepest of grooves. Her "wah wah" sax on "Going Nowhere Fast" and "Ring Dang Do" is particularly memorable.
All in all, Grace Darling is definitely a talent to watch, and Imaginary Lover is a promising release of funk grooves.