Vocalist Louise Cappi's recording Mélange
is a musical collection of short stories, each cast as uniquely and differently as if they were written by a Mario Vargas Llosa or Gabriel García Márquez. Each selection is carefully curated, right down to the production, to achieve a given end. The title is apt as each of these songs differ from the other, some greatly and some not so much. It makes for a rich listening experience and a celebration of American music in all of its different flavors.
The disc is introduced by a Cappi original, "Talk to Me." The piece projects a Caribbean-Brazilian vibe presented in a hyper-organic form. The piece is stripped of the production that often makes this music maudlin and sticky. The instruments are positioned even with Cappi's voice, the bass strings humidly slapping the board like the bedsprings in a swank Esplanade hotel. Pianist and arranger Jenna McSwain creates a fecund environment in which the singer may thrive. A delicious way to hear music.
Cappi's performance of Randy Newman
's "Guilty" could not be more different. Deftly engineered, the total performance recalls Cosimo Matassa and his famous New Orleans J&M Recording Studio. The protagonist of the story, side-by-side with Cappi is guitarist Alex Krahe
whose Reggie Young
-influenced obbligato playing spices the song perfectly. When it is time to solo, he does so with muscle and viril delight. Cappi belts out the song as if giving her confession to a wayward, hop-addled priest right out of the first season of True Detective
As different again is Cappi's treatment of Roberta Flack's "Feel Like Makin' Love," featuring Krahe's subtle guitar and Paul Longstreth
period-appropriate Fender Rhodes (Cappi provides her own answer to Flack later in the disc on "Let's Make Love"). It is as far from "Guilty" as it is near. Cappi's second original is "Bella NOLA," the singer's love song to the Crescent City, Russell Ramirez
's trombone seasoning the song with Allen Toussaint's undeniable fragrance.
The recording's spiritual center is the near-perfect mashup of "Chain of Fools" with "Unchain My Heart." This is no mere cover of the Aretha Franklin tune any more than an air kiss blown at Ray Charles
. Again, Krahe's guitar owns all in its way, lighting a fire beneath Cappi, goosing her into a beautiful vehemence. Cappi takes Gershwin's "Summertime" giving it a Van Morrison "Moondance" treatment, breezy and insistent. Taking her biggest stylistic chance, Cappi slays with Leon Russell's "Song For You," just her and McSwain taking their sweet time with a timeless classic deserving to be treated as such.
Talk To Me; Guilty; Feel Like Makin’ Love; Bella Nola; Chain of Fools/Unchain My Heart; It Is What It Is;
Summertime/Moondance; Let’s Make Love; Song For You.