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Nnenna Freelon: Soulcall

Jim Santella By

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With an eclectic program and her loose feeling of relaxed charm, Nnenna Freelon expresses like no other. On “Button Up Your Overcoat,” for example, she interprets the lyrics with seductive passion. Not a lightweight pop arrangement, Freelon’s offering tells you “Take good care of yourself” because she seems to care about you. It’s from the heart. She’s telling you how she feels about you while weaving with meaningful gestures and vocal expressions. Chris Potter’s soulful tenor saxophone interlude applies intensity to the Fender Rhodes, guitar, congas and drum set surroundings. A tightly muted “Miles” trumpet reminds the listener that this is timeless music.

Catchy pop music thrills, deeply spiritual prayer anthems, romantic R&B relationship healers, lovely ballads, and straight-ahead scat-sung classics make up Freelon’s varied program. Everything she performs, however, carries her trademarks. The singer’s scat singing seems to indicate that she’s told the tale to it’s finale, and now words can no longer express what comes next. Take 6 joins Freelon on Nat King Cole’s “Straighten Up and Fly Right” for an a cappella journey through times past. Stevie Wonder’s “If It’s Magic” strolls along the beach as a pleasant vocal-guitar bossa, while “Just In Time” stretches out in your favorite jazz club with veterans James Williams, Ray Drummond and Ed Thigpen. Freelon’s application of woven lyrics and fresh scat singing makes each song unique. Her title track stirs emotions through changes in mood. From gay Latin dancing to dramatic alto flute purring, her song discusses life’s experiences and how we view romantic maturity.

Maturity has settled into Freelon’s presentation, too. Unlike her earlier albums, this one finds the singer in a more frank, fundamental, and straightforward situation. She injects her unique manner of presenting a song into each piece while keeping the format familiar. No one expresses quite like Nnenna Freelon, and this highly recommended session comes straight from the heart.

Title: Soulcall | Year Released: 2000 | Record Label: Concord Records

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