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Vocalist Hazel Mitchell-Bell Releases 'Sack Full Of Dreams'

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Sack Full of Dreams, Mitchell-Bell's superb follow-up, shows that she has staying power.
—John Murph
Washington, D.C.-based jazz vocalist Hazel Mitchell-Bell unveils her new album Sack Full of Dreams with a release in May 2021. On this project, she partners with pianist, arranger and producer Vince Evans and a team of accomplished musicians from the Washington, D.C. area. This second independently produced album reflects a heightened level of artistry and a broadening of repertoire for the already popular vocalist. Liner notes by jazz journalist John Murph sweeten the pot by supplying a wealth of information about the tunes found in their 12-track offering.

Heavily influenced by Nancy Wilson, Ella Fitzgerald, Dinah Washington, Sarah Vaughan, Phyllis Hyman and others, Mitchell-Bell has performed at top venues and jazz festivals such as the Kennedy Center, Twins Jazz, Alice’s Jazz and Cultural Society, City Winery, the Preservation Jazz Festival, the Mid-Atlantic Jazz Festival and the Sheldon Cultural Center in St. Louis. She has enjoyed numerous sellout performances in the nation’s capital and beyond.

Pianist Vince Evans has earned enormous respect from peers and fans through his extensive career as a musician, producer and educator. He has worked with celebrities such as Phyllis Hyman, Al Jarreau, George Benson, Joey McIntyre, Jonathan Butler, Bill Withers, Gerald Albright, Luther Vandross, Eddie Murphy, MC Hammer and Prince. Evans graduated with a bachelor’s degree in music production and engineering from Berklee College of Music. He runs a recording studio, rehearsal space and teaching facility, where he teaches vocal technique, music theory, improvisation and music production.

The recording is a collection of Mitchell-Bell’s interpretations of jazz, blues and R&B favorites made famous by world-renowned musicians Nina Simone, Aretha Franklin, Luther Vandross and others. She also embarks on new territory by interpreting tunes from the Broadway repertoire. By adding trumpet, saxophone, guitar, and a string section to their core band, she and Evans present listeners with a fresh reimagining of these beloved tunes.

Evans performs on piano, organ, melodica and synthesizer on the album. Other core band members include bassist James B. King, Jr. and drummer JC Jefferson, Jr. Guest appearances are made by trumpeter Kenny Rittenhouse, saxophonist Craig Alston, guitarist Alvin White and percussionist Kevin Kojo Prince. A string quartet consisting of violinists Asali Ruth McIntyre and Bonnie Grier, violaist Gerald Battle and cellist Denna Purdie, adds depth to four tracks, and the Lomax sisters contribute vocals to three album tunes.

The title track, “Sack Full of Dreams,” written by Gary McFarland and Louis Savary and popularized by drummer and vocalist Grady Tate in 1968, makes for an inviting introduction. This version features soft touches from the string section and lends a feel of optimism. A Latin twist is given to the second track, “Where is Love?” from the Tony-Award-winning British musical Oliver!. The third track is “Save Your Love for Me,” the blues-soaked jazz ballad written by pianist and bandleader Buddy Johnson in 1955. Mitchell-Bell’s rendition of Nina Simone’s “Do I Move You?” (recorded in 1967) is sure to get listeners moving to its laidback, bluesy groove. The string section shines on track five and Mitchell-Bell’s version of “This Bitter Earth,” popularized by Dinah Washington, takes on new life. Listeners may recognize the sixth track “Hurry Up This Way Again,” a soulful classic originally recorded by the Stylistics and later by Phyllis Hyman in 1998.

The seventh track is a ballad version of the jazz standard “When Did You Leave Heaven?” written by Richard Whiting and Walter Bullock for the 1936 film Sing, Baby, Sing. Listeners will enjoy the unique arrangement found on track eight: Mitchell-Bell’s tango-inspired version of “Throw It Away,” made famous by singer Abbey Lincoln. Track nine is an upbeat version of Aretha Franklin’s “Spirit in The Dark,” an energetic blues-gospel fusion complete with a choir, clapping and exclamations. Track ten is a heartfelt delivery of “Dance with My Father,” written by R&B singer Luther Vandross. Mitchell-Bell revisits Broadway with the sentimental eleventh track “What I Did for Love,” from the 1975 musical A Chorus Line. The album closes with R&B tune “Meet Me on the Moon,” popularized by vocalist Phyllis Hyman. Again, the string quartet provides the perfect complement to this interpretation.

In 2018, Hazel Mitchell-Bell collaborated with Vince Evans on her highly praised debut album Stronger Than Ever, featuring beloved jazz classics and R&B hits. The CD enjoyed 12 weeks on the Roots Music Report Top 50 Jazz Chart, peaking at #12 overall. Dr. Nick of WPFW 89.3 FM says the all-star band “introduces a new voice to the world of jazz...a voice to be reckoned with.” Robert Rusch of Cadence Magazine says the vocalist “has a voice which is fresh and compelling and gripping.”

Sack Full of Dreams is available for download from major sales outlets on May 7, 2021.

This story appears courtesy of The Phillips Agency.
Copyright © 2021. All rights reserved.

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