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Everyone, I suppose, has his or her “point of no return.” I reached mine rather quickly while auditioning this new album by singer / guitarist Dalia Faitelson’s septet. After the opening track, which definitely lives up to its name (“Wreack, Cracked, Crazy”), I clung to the hope that matters might eventually improve, and indeed they did (the four instrumentals aren’t that bad) but not appreciably. All of the compositions are Faitelson’s, as are the lyrics on the album’s five vocals, and Cole Porter or Irving Berlin she ain’t. I’m sorry but my taste in lyrics is quite conservative; I prefer to hear words from which I can derive some plausible meaning and experience an emotional response, words that travel along a path that leads to some reasonable destination rather than a “point of no return” (ironically, the lyrics to that song are the best on the album). As Faitelson sings in a breathy voice that leaves some words unclear, the inclusion of lyrics in the album’s booklet is quite useful. She hasn’t much range but does sing on-key, as one might expect from one who’s also an instrumentalist. I felt at times as though Faitelson were trying to mimic Diana Krall, but perhaps that was only my imagination working overtime. Her colleagues are first-rate musicians (trumpeter Randy Brecker and drummer Adam Nussbaum are perhaps the best-known among them) and they have no problem carrying out their assigned tasks. Brecker lays down some pleasing licks on “The Informer” but the soloist who caught my ear most consistently was accordionist Lelo Nika. Faitelson doesn’t try to overshadow anyone; on the contrary, she is in the forefront as an instrumentalist only on the album’s last and most agreeable selection, “Making Conversation,” which is basically a discourse between her mellow guitar and Chris Cheek’s soprano saxophone (with additional comments by percussionist Ayi Solomon). I’d have been happy to hear more of that. As it is, the album warrants acceptable marks for musicianship but lesser grades for content, which is where the score counts most.
As a songwriter and vocalist, I love jazz for the experience of being in the center of intense creativity. It is the most potent form of music for keeping the artist and the audience in the 'now. Being in the moment is essential for humans, and we need help in learning how to do that. As a songwriter, I need the depth of musicality that jazz voicings can give my stories. My songs seem light and whimsical, but the message is not.
I met my main collaborator, Mark Fitzgibbon, at one of his gigs. I needed to do my first original album, and his playing was masterful, robust, and beautiful. At the time, I didn't realize how suited we were as a team. We're onto our 4rth album together.
My advice to new listeners is to listen to a really clear and simple version of a song so you can then hear what the musicians are doing and enjoy their creativity and musicality. Also, you have to see jazz live to appreciate it fully. You'll never feel it the same way listening to a CD or online. You need the vibration to go through your body to really get it!
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