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Rising star Shane Ashley embodies all that is good and fine about contemporary vocal jazz: a profoundly personal sense of deep soul, an gift for creating truly ear-catching melodies and harmonies, and a tasteful avoidance of the cliches that so often drag the genre down into cheesiness. From stem to stern, My Emotions is a warm, touching, excellent document of a woman’s life and loves.
All the songs here were either composed by Ashley or co-composed with multi-instrumentalist Peter Stanley. It’s clear that these two folks have worked together long enough to develop a magnificent rapport. Thankfully, Stanley uses realistic keyboard textures and real instruments to evade the low-budget electronic sounds typical of so much contemporary jazz and R&B. Instead of hogging the show, Stanley puts his formidable gifts into full support of Ms. Ashley’s compelling voice. And what a voice it is, consistently listenable and oh-so comforting. Shane Ashley wraps herself around the audience, practically sitting in its collective lap as she shares her innermost thoughts.
By all rights, “Lovers We Can Never Be” should already be a national jazz-radio hit. The ear is grabbed right from the first acoustic guitar notes, and Ashley seriously pours out the soul. “Pray”, written for Ashley’s daughter, simply oozes love of God and family. Stanley reaches into the funk bag for “I Can Love”, while the ultra-low bass of “If I Can’t Have You” draws that tune closer to contemporary R&B. “Heaven With You” is a bit reminiscent of the slow, bluesy acoustic lopes that Eric Clapton has favored for the past decade.
All in all there’s not a dog to choose from here; each song is a pristine little gem. Many thanks to Ms. Ashley for sharing her emotions on disc. This one is an absolute must-hear.
Track Listing: Lovers We Can Never Be; If I Can
Personnel: Shane Ashley, vocals; Peter Stanley, guitars, keyboards, drums, other instruments, vocals; Karl Perrazo, percussion; Anitra Lewis, Bernetta Hutchinson, backup vocals.
I love jazz because anything is possible; it has few rules and the best jazz breaks those ones. I prefer free improv because it doesn't really have any rules at all.
I was first exposed to jazz in my teens (in the late sixties).
The first jazz record I bought was Filles de Kilimanjaro by Miles Davis, shortly followed by Extrapolation by John McLaughlin.
My advice to new listeners is to listen as widely as possible and not to make snap judgments--stick with it.