For her latest album, Nnenna Freelon has set aside what she calls the music of her parents to pay tribute to one of the most talented artists of her day, Stevie Wonder. For me, this album is a curious homage. Instead of capturing the joy of Wonder's music, Freelon sings as if she were worshiping at a temple erected to honor of the composer. The arrangements are heavy, spiritual and muddy, lacking any crispness. Some of her interpretations of Wonder's works are unique to say the least. "The Tears of a Clown" has a spiritual tinge to it with Freelon's vocals rising above, slightly dissonant, a seemingly disorganized arrangement with Jason Crosby's violin leading the way along with a truck load of electronically created instrumentation. The same is true of "My Cherie Amour", with the guitar of Chuck Loeb being the major non electronically created back up. Freelon is an incredibly gifted singer and Wonder...well Wonder is Wonder. One would think this should have been a musical marriage made in heaven. But it just didn't work out that way to my ears. When one hears Wonder made music, one expects one's toes to tap, shoulders to move and hips to sway or heart strings to be tugged. With the exception of "Bird of Beauty", instead of swaying and tapping, there's a lot of plodding going on.
Freelon's web page is at http://www.freelon.com/nnenna.
Track Listing: Get It All; These Are Soulful DaysOverjoyed; Creepin
I was first exposed to jazz when I discovered that one of Jimi Hendrix's influences was Wes Montgomery. I played guitar growing up and idolized Hendrix, so I knew that anyone he looked up to must be good
I was first exposed to jazz when I discovered that one of Jimi Hendrix's influences was Wes Montgomery. I played guitar growing up and idolized Hendrix, so I knew that anyone he looked up to must be good. I was 16 at the time. I went to Tower Records and purchased a CD by Wes, and I was hooked from the very first ten seconds. The sound of the song Lolita illuminated my bedroom, as I just sat back amazed at how colorful and soulful this music was--I understood it, even though at the time I didn't understand how to go about playing it. I get chills listening to Wes' solo on Lolita, and I can still listen to that song ten times in a row and never get tired of it. There is a truly timeless quality to genuinely spontaneous jazz music, and it is that quality that has inspired me to devote my life to studying and playing this music.