Unlike many singers, Carmen Lundy does not recycle standards on her latest album, which was captured live at the Madrid Theater in Los Angeles. Instead, the program of new material she wrote (or co-wrote) makes for an unexpected listening experience.
Backed by an eighteen-piece ensemble, Lundy showcases her songs, many of which she premiered here. One immediately arresting track is "Afrasia!, the lyrics of which basically say the word "God in several languages (Hebrew, Hindi, Spanish, Portuguese, Italian and others), and whose backing vocals lend a certain spontaneity. Also welcome to the ear is "Wild Child, which expresses an urge to discover one's inner infant.
Lundy's backing ensemble, which includes the LA String Quartet, has a grandiose sound, and the arrangements (also written by Lundy) suit the songs wonderfully. During her residence at Iridium in late February, she was backed by a very tight six-piece band that included two bass players (acoustic and electric).
Lundy stuck mostly to material from the live album, opening with "In Love Again, the smaller band improvising more freely. She also played some newly composed material, dedicating "Heart of Gold to the memory of the late Ray Barretto. The song had a Latinesque feel and lots of space for Cuban percussionist Mayra Casales to show off her skills.
It is hard to understand why Lundy chose to use two basses. (On the record, there is a third, played by Nathan East, who has worked with virtually everyone in the business.) The sound was not more profound, and the only noticeable difference was the increased freedom the bassists had during individual solos.
Jazz and The New Songbook is quite enjoyable, and Lundy's decision not to perform any standards ("There are plenty of them in my previous albums, she said during the Iridium concert) was a daring but wise one. The addition of, say, Gershwin or Cole Porter might have shifted the attention away from her original material.
In Love Again; One More River To Cross; Something To Believe In; Better Days; Where'd It Go;
Wild Child; Afrasia!; Happy New Year; Lon Journey Home; You're Not In Love; Old Friend; (I
Dream) In Living Color; Firefly; Vu ja De; Good Morning Kiss.
Carmen Lundy: vocals; Robert Glasper: piano; Billy Childs:piano; Curtis Lundy: piano; Nathan
East: bass; Kenny Davis: bass; Phil Upchurch: bass; Victor Lewis: guitar; Marvin Smith: drums;
Mayra Casales: percussion; Steve Turre: trombone, conch shells; Bobby Watson: tenor sax;
Mark Shim: alto sax; Krystal Williams: background vocals; Michelina Wright: violin; Albert
Romero: violin; Catherine Lamb: viola; Rachel Arnold: cello.