"Only Love Can Break Your Heart," a minor 1970 Neil Young hit, was ostensibly written for Graham Nash after the latter's split from Joni Mitchell (a claim Young later walked back), a breakup song then. It's a lilting waltz with a simple melody more sweet than sad. Cycling eight-bar verse and chorus sections without a bridge don't give a jazz singer a lot to work with, but rather than adding heft to thin material, the arrangement strips the song down even further. The basses of Eric Revis and Matthew Parrish vamp on D and A, four-to-the-bar, over Nasheet Waits' obstinately chugging brushes as singer Michelle Lordi floats over the bar lines ignoring Young's changes, cool and detached. Where is this going? Having laid out for the first two choruses, pianist Orrin Evans, who also produced, crashes into this dreamscape with a frantic piano explosion that's like a can of red paint thrown at a pristine white wallor maybe an unwanted thought that once surfaced, won't go away. It's shocking, a bit deranged and devastatingly effective. In an interview with R.J. DeLuke (Michelle Lordi: Career Evolution), Lordi said that she didn't come up as a jazz singer, and it might be her lack of fealty to the jazz tradition that freed her to turn a piece of lightweight Laurel Canyon folk-rock into a hauntingly understated monodrama of romantic obsession and loss.
Contact John Chacona on All About Jazz.
John Chacona is a freelance journalist, content writer and producer in Cleveland.
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