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Rose Ellis: Like Songs Like Moons

Dan McClenaghan By

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After a promising beginning in the Netherlands—success with the Dutch pop group, Roos, prestigious schooling and prestigious awards—vocalist/songwriter Rose Ellis came to New York, with a scholarship from the Dutch government and jazz on her mind. She earned her master's degree at the Aaron Copland School of Music, a solid start. And now her jazz debut: Like Songs Like Moons.

It's an obvious labor of love, beginning with Rose's own composition, "Satellite," that opens with pianist Glenn Zaleski simulating spring showers that glisten off the keyboard. Then Ellis blows in—crystal clear intonation, adept phrasing and a luminescent spirit. This is an odd song—in the way some of Paul Simon's or Joni Mitchell's songs can be odd, unusual word choices and phrases evoking unexpected, offbeat imagery. "I'm spinning, spacing, stumbling, my heart flips, gravity fails, and the whole world trips...I'm a satellite." It's sort of like new millennium Great American Songbook tune, with a catchy (intermittent) groove and melody that won't let go.

Compositionally, there's more from Ellis. She penned seven of the eleven tunes here. All are intelligently crafted. "Don't Be Afraid" has a slinky rhythm. Ellis sounds like a savior—world wise, glowing with a serene confidence, capable of thwarting the monsters that hide under your bed, willing and able to banish your nightmares. "You Light Up My Life" (Ellis's tune, not the Debby Boone pop hit from 1978) celebrates the exuberance of love with a sparkling verve.

"Early In the Morning" is a dreamy ballad, one of the set's most beautiful moments; "Like Never Before" is an rhythmically elastic duet featuring bassist Pablo Menares and Ellis, with some tasty background vocal overdubs (Ellis backing Ellis?) framing the gorgeous voice to perfection.

The set ends with a tune written but never recorded by Billie Holiday. It's a duet, with Glenn Zaleski opening up by taking us to church on the piano. Rose Ellis gives a straightforward take on the tune, a song of deeply aching love lost, like only Billie Holiday could write, brought into a stained glass light on this first rate debut by Rose Ellis.

Track Listing: Satellite; Rise with the Sun; You Light Up My Life; He Needs Me; That's All; Early in the Morning; Like Never Before; Let Go; I Wish I Could; Don't Be Afraid; Preacher Boy.

Personnel: Rose Ellis: vocals; Glenn Zaleski: piano and Rhodes; Pablo Menares: bass; Ross Pederson: drums.

Title: Like Songs Like Moons | Year Released: 2017 | Record Label: Zennez Records

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