202

Nnenna Freelon: Soulcall

AAJ Staff By

Sign in to view read count
Slowly but surely, Nnenna Freelon is forging her own distinctive identity in the minds of listeners through her singular voice and through the uplifting messages inherent in her CD's.

Now that Concord is giving her free reign to produce her own CD's, Freelon has chosen to sing about the ultimate uplift: the basis and the optimism of her faith. While her last CD, "Maiden Voyage," concerned itself with the stages of a woman's life with unflinching honesty, "Soulcall" elaborates on the meaning of the album's title—that is, a call upon the unlimited resources of the human soul.

Freelon does this by recruiting guests artists who share her attitude and spirit: Take 6, Kirk Whalum, and the Sounds Of Blackness. Through the strengths of those guests' individual styles, they illuminate Freelon's interests in their specialized genres, such as gospel or R&B. Less interested in categories than in content, Freelon varies her repertoire to approach the subject from various perspectives, converging as always at the same conclusion. That conclusion is epitomized in Freelon's original compositions, "One Child At A Time" and "Soulcall," revealing, as one may suspect, that she is a talented songwriter, in addition to being a talented singer and arranger. The positive message of "One story read, one promise kept. This is all it takes to nurture change tomorrow. Touch the future. We can turn the world around, one child at a time," reinforcing her apparent belief in the importance of childhood in creating a brighter future.

Even though Freelon's back-up group has changed from "Maiden Voyage" to "Soulcall," the difference is hardly noticeable because of Freelon's command of every song with ease and feeling. "Better Than Anything" glides from a rhumba-ish 3/4 into a 4/4 swing without perceptible pause or thought, as if it were natural. Freelon's original approach to "Button Up Your Overcoat" reveals once again that she considers standards as material for the blending of contemporary beats with traditional lyrics.

In the gospel department, though, her two tracks of "Amazing Grace" offer two approaches to one of the more important songs in Freelon's life. The first duo version with pianist Miyamoto goes ruminative and rhythmless, as Freelon considers the words' essential meanings as they are delivered. The surprising fact of the trio version is that somehow Freelon was able to recruit legendary drummer Ed Thigpen to perform with her and Ray Drummond, even though Thigpen lives in Denmark and comes to the U.S. just once or twice a year.

For absolute gorgeousness, Mark Kibble's and Cedric Dent's arrangement of "Straighten Up And Fly Right" stands in a class of its own, as Take 6 merges its unparalleled vocal style with Freelon's voice for swing and harmonic richness.

"Maiden Voyage" was a noteworthy accomplishment, to say the least, as artists like Marian McPartland mentioned. If Freelon's growing audience was worried about how she would top that truly exceptional album, their worries may be put to rest. "Soulcall," similar in instrumentation and arrangements, differentiates itself from "Maiden Voyage" with a stand-alone message that distinguishes Freelon yet again.


Track Listing: Better Than Anything; Let It Be Me; Straighten Up And Fly Right; Amazing Grace; Button Up Your Overcoat; One Child At A Time; I Say A Little Prayer; If It's Magic; Soulcall; Just In Time; Paper Moon; You're Nearer/Nearer My God To Three; Amazing Grace

Personnel: Nnenna Freelon, vocals; Takana Miyamoto, piano, Fender Rhodes; James Williams, piano; Joe Beck, guitar; Wayne Batchelor, Ray Drummond, Matt Penman, bass; Woody Williams, Ed Thigpen, drums; Matt Shulman, trumpet; Chris Potter, tenor sax, alto flute; James Sandon, tenor sax; Beverly Botsford, percussion

| Record Label: Concord Music Group | Style: Straight-ahead/Mainstream


Shop

More Articles

Read Northern Adventures CD/LP/Track Review Northern Adventures
by Jack Bowers
Published: February 28, 2017
Read Collider CD/LP/Track Review Collider
by John Sharpe
Published: February 28, 2017
Read Eos CD/LP/Track Review Eos
by Karl Ackermann
Published: February 28, 2017
Read More Than This CD/LP/Track Review More Than This
by Henning Bolte
Published: February 28, 2017
Read Road to Forever CD/LP/Track Review Road to Forever
by Jack Bowers
Published: February 27, 2017
Read Avenida Graham CD/LP/Track Review Avenida Graham
by Edward Blanco
Published: February 27, 2017
Read "Like a Bird or Spirit, not a Face" CD/LP/Track Review Like a Bird or Spirit, not a Face
by John Eyles
Published: March 4, 2016
Read "Petal" CD/LP/Track Review Petal
by Chris M. Slawecki
Published: May 6, 2016
Read "Outside In" CD/LP/Track Review Outside In
by Dan Bilawsky
Published: July 9, 2016
Read "Close Enough" CD/LP/Track Review Close Enough
by Budd Kopman
Published: August 8, 2016
Read "Stille Post (Radio Works: 2003-2011)" CD/LP/Track Review Stille Post (Radio Works: 2003-2011)
by Mark Corroto
Published: July 17, 2016
Read "Lea Áigi" CD/LP/Track Review Lea Áigi
by Mark Sullivan
Published: December 23, 2016

Post a comment

comments powered by Disqus

Sponsor: Jazz Near You | GET IT  

Support our sponsor

Support All About Jazz's Future

We need your help and we have a deal. Contribute $20 and we'll hide the six Google ads that appear on every page for a full year!

Buy it!