Portraits is a relatively new quintet out of Sedona, Arizona. The group has been making the rounds on the area circuit since 2016; initially formed from a spontaneous, hometown, coffee-house session, word spread quickly and the group outgrew that venue by their second performance. The members of the quintet have skirted around the fringes of jazz in the past but Portraits Featuring Adalia Tara fits solidly in that category. This eponymous debut is a well-produced ear-opener.
Keyboardist David Vincent Mills is a co-founder of the Zoetrope Orchestra, who create original scores to accompany silent film classics. He has recorded as a solo artist and leader, performed at the Montreux Jazz Festival and many regional festivals, and taught piano at college level since the mid-1990s. Guitarist Fitzhugh Jenkins and bassist Zac Carson are primarily studio musicians. Drummer Mark Rownd has released several well-received electronic music albums, as leader or co-leader. Vocalist Tara recorded her self-produced debut album, Why Wait, in 2017.
Tara and Mills are the headliners here, and the vocalist is very impressive. Her powerful and pliable voice does not necessarily conjure up familiar singers of the past or present but is a unique instrument. Her gift for subtle improvisation makes over-recorded pieces like "Autumn Leaves," "At Last," and "Summertime" sound fresh and personal. Tara's reading of Leonard Cohen's "Hallelujah" is the strongest since that of Jeff Buckley. Similarly, she puts just enough of her own spin on George Harrison's "While My Guitar Gently Weeps."
Portraits Featuring Adalia Tara has plenty to offer for both traditionalists and fans of jazz-worthy pop songs. Taraalso a composer, pianist and guitaristhas an impressive range and a fine voice for the bluesy interpretations of some of these old and new classics. Mills has plenty of opportunities to demonstrate his own technique and Rownd, Jenkins and Carson form a tight, supportive rhythm section striking the perfect balance. It is likely the members of Portraits will be heard from again, and deservedly so.
Autumn Leaves; At Last; Summertime; Hallelujah; While My Guitar Gently Weeps; The Way You Look Tonight; Somewhere Over the Rainbow.
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