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Carmen Lundy: Jazz and the New Songbook

Jim Santella By

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With this live two-disc set recorded in the Los Angeles area, Carmen Lundy sings original songs that she's created in order to communicate exactly what she feels about the state of jazz in this new century. She's also a painter who uses oils on canvas, and her works were exhibited in a month-long exhibit at the same venue.

Expression comes in many forms. Lundy's silky alto voice and crystal clear articulation allow her to send each message fluently. While most of the songs in her new songbook contain exotic elements of spiritual awakenings and reflections of the natural world, they all come from deep within her heart. Similarly, she's surrounded by artists who feel the same way. Bobby Watson, Mark Shim and Steve Turre, in particular, step forward with gut-wrenching solos that complement the singer's goals.

Afrasia, from which comes the name of the album's new label, begins with a soul-stirring conch shell blast. Turre goes on to develop a theme which quickly evolves into a mesmerizing rhythmic celebration. A chorus of background voices proceeds to set the stage for this lovely ballad as Lundy takes charge with an assertive message with universal appeal. Her song could be transplanted into any corner of the globe and it would find a comfortable familiarity. Furthermore, she works with a first-class ensemble of instrumentalists who balance the piece evenly with pages of heartfelt jazz.

Much of the performance, however, drives into R&B territory where Lundy wears her heart on her shirtsleeve and relationships of a personal nature take center stage. Lundy's Happy New Year gives us a new song for that annual celebration when voices join to say farewell to the old and to welcome in the new. She sings this warm ballad with a delicate air and a refreshingly positive attitude. Bobby Watson adds a soulful alto solo that speaks of the warm glow that we get when the clock strikes midnight on December 31 every year and we're holding onto someone special.

Three bonus tracks have been added to the album: classic Carmen Lundy love songs that start the fires burning all over the place. She delivers each convincingly with genuine compassion and starts a heat wave that's liable to last all year long.

Track Listing: In Love Again; One More River To Cross; Something To Believe In; Better Days; Where'd It Go; Wild Child; Afrasia!; Happy New Year; Long Journey Home; You're Not In Love; All Day All Night; Walking Code Blue; Send Me Somebody To Love; Old Friend; (I Dream) In Living Color. Bonus Tracks: Firefly; Vu Ja De; Good Morning Kiss.

Personnel: Carmen Lundy: vocals; Robert Glasper, Billy Childs, David Roitstein: piano, keyboards; Curtis Lundy: acoustic bass; Nathan East, Kenny Daves: electric bass; Phil Upchurch: guitar; Victor Lewis, Marvin "Smitty" Smith: drums; Mayra Casales: percussion; Steve Turre: trombone, conch shells; Bobby Watson: alto saxophone; Mark Shim: tenor saxophone, soprano saxophone; Krystal Davis Williams: background vocals; LA String Quartet.

Title: Jazz and the New Songbook | Year Released: 2006 | Record Label: Afrasia

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