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Carolyn Graye is a veteran vocalist and jazz pianist; however, on her latest release she chooses to focus on singing and let Jessica Williams tackle the keyboard duties. The result is Songs, twelve standards that portray Ms. Graye in a favorable light, making intelligent musical decisions while adding her personal signature to well-known favorites. Highlights include her original lyrics to Ornette Coleman’s “Turnaround,” a bluer-than-blue “Blue Bossa,” and a cyber twist on the lyrics to “Everything Happens To Me."
While the vocalist’s mezzo-soprano instrument is not incredibly beautiful or powerful or showy (think: American Idol), it is controlled, consistently in tune and capable of great moments, such as the warm, focused vibrato that propels the final chorus of “That’s All.” Rather than drown a song with flash and embellishments as younger, less experienced singers are apt to do, Graye trusts the lyric, piano and voice to create music greater than the some of its parts.
It’s my guess that Williams – as dominant a force as can be found in modern jazz, and one who rarely assumes the role of accompanist – appreciates the subtleties in Graye’s approach. Rather than battle for superiority, the duo run through Songs on equal footing, resolved to journey where the music takes them.