The ever-evolving—and expanding—Shelly Rudolph story continues onward and upward with the release of her latest album, the ambitious and atmospheric The Way We Love, her debut on the Origin Records label. Well-established as an organically- gifted and sultry fine purveyor of jazz, soul, pop, blues and more in the Northwest, Rudolph takes a step forward with her latest project, a drum-less and sometimes “chamber jazz-like” journey into musical terrain both fresh and linked to her continuing story in progress. Embedded on this adventure are key tracks, textures supplied and contextual cues by the lyrical, ECM Records-connected cellist David Darling.
Rudolph has long been a favored voice around her hometown of Portland, Oregon, and musical travels have taken her to New York, Los Angeles, the West Indies, Japan, Korea and beyond. She has been dubbed a “robust and captivating vocalist” by Jazz Times and the LA Weekly praised her ability to use her “honey-glazed throat to send chills up and down your spine.”
While interpreting songs of others, and in various classic songbooks, Rudolph is also gifted in the art of original songwriting, as heard on her previous, more “world soul”-oriented album Water in My Hand. The Montecito Journal called the album, recorded mostly in Santa Barbara, California, “a stunning album, intoxicating and stimulating, a mature work from an old soul artist.”
Now, also from the original music/poetess corner of her creative life, Rudolph follows up Water in My Hand with her long-awaited The Way We Love, a unique and lyrical new song set, with signature sonics from legendary cellist Darling. Darling’s layered cello textures blend with a subtle palette of piano-bass-guitar and cameos from the New Orleans-bred and Portland-based Devin Phillips, on soprano saxophone, as with his opening statements and later tasteful riffs woven between Rudolph’s lines on “Faith.”
Among the highlights on The Way We Love is an inventively re-harmonized version of the immortal Ben E. King hit “Stand by Me,” the simple original chord structure of which is imbued with a new tension-and-release sense of drama. The inspired guitarist Chance Hayden (a recording artist on Atlanta Records/Ropeadope) was behind the arrangement. He also supplies a melodic solo over a passage of suspended harmonic ambience, as if in an emotional questioning state—ultimately resolved under Rudolph’s assuring, closing refrain “everything’s gonna be alright.”
On “Slow Life,” Shelly engages in a sweetly soulful and empathetic duet with vocalist Redray Frazier, a New Yorker turned Portlander whose resume includes work with David Byrne. The short-ish, radio-friendly track also features noted jazz (and smooth jazz) pianist Tom Grant, with whom Rudolph has been a regular collaborator for many years.