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Nicky Schrire: Space And Time

Dan Bilawsky By

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The art of singing goes well beyond the act of singing. To simply sing, one need only open the mouth and let the music come forth, but that's the act. The art involves pitch perfect delivery, clear and crisp diction, control, creativity, flexibility, and the ability to completely inhabit, own, and sell a song; in short, all the skills that Nicky Schrire possesses.

Schrire, a young South African vocalist based in New York, turned more than a few heads with her debut—Freedom Flight (Circavision Productions, 2012)—and she'll likely turn some more with this follow-up; it's an intimate stunner. That initial offering found her in the company of a simpatico ensemble, but she trims things back on Space & Time, delivering twelve captivating pieces in the company of one of three pianists—Fabian Almazan, Gerald Clayton or Gil Goldstein. Together, Schrire and her pianist(s) turn the lights down low, make the tempos (mostly) slow, and completely hypnotize with their artistry.

The eclecticism that Schrire showed on her first album carries over to Space & Time, as she covers everything from Gershwin to Massive Attack and Irving Berlin to The Beatles; nothing is off limits and everything is open to (re)interpretation. "You're Nobody Till Somebody Love You," for example, carries a sadder-than-usual sentiment when Schrire sings it; her take on the song actually reflects the nature of the lyric(s) far better than Dean Martin's immortal, happy-go-lucky rendition. Berlin's "Say It Isn't So" is also transformed, coming out as more of an art song than a standard standard. Singling out specific covers is difficult, since most of the material sticks after a single hearing, but other highlights include a largo, metrically revised, pure-as-the-driven-snow "I Wish You Love," a joy-filled "Selyani," and a heartfelt "Bless The Telephone" that tops all else in emotionally purity.

While two-thirds of the program is given over to the music of others, Schrire put her pen to good use, writing four songs that are featured herein. The scampering "A Song For A Simple Time" sounds like it could have been the end result of an imagined collaboration between Maria Neckam and Regina Spektor, and Schrire opens her heart and mind for all to see during "When You Go." Both of those numbers leave a mark, as do "And So I Sing" and the title track.

Each pianist that Schrire pairs herself off with brings something different to the table, but Almazan's work tends to stand out most because it cuts against the grain. Clayton and Goldstein are brilliant as always, but they amplify the intent that exists within Schrire at any given moment; Almazan asserts himself a bit more, taking more risks, but finding something unique in the process.

Freedom Flight immediately marked Schrire as one to watch, but Space & Time puts her in another class entirely; this is breathtaking, stop-you-in-your-tracks stuff.

Track Listing: You're Nobody Till Somebody Loves You; I Wish You Love; A Song For A Simple Time; Someone To Watch Over Me; Teardrop; Bless The Telephone; And So I Sing; Seliyana; When You Go; Say It Isn't So; Here Comes The Sun; Space & Time.

Personnel: Nicky Schrire: vocals; Fabian Almazan: piano (3, 5, 7, 10); Gerald Clayton: piano (2, 6, 9, 11); Gil Goldstein: piano (1, 4, 8, 12); Matt Pierson: producer.

Title: Space And Time | Year Released: 2013 | Record Label: Magenta Label Group

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