The cover of Veronica Martell's The Art of Intimacy says it all. A lovely woman indeed, her portrait exudes an air of mystery and seduction. When her voice comes over the speaker, the process is complete. The aptly named CD title is a collection of elegant ballads that exhibit different sides of this brilliant singer.
A fixture on the New York nightclub scene, Martell names among her inspirations Ella Fitzgerald, Nancy Wilson, Etta James, and Sarah Vaughan, as well as contemporary stars like Patti LaBelle, James Taylor, and Anita Baker. However, it's Stevie Nicks whose influence is felt on the first song. Complemented by the muted trumpet of Kenny Rampton, Martell delivers a haunting rendition of the Fleetwood Mac classic "Dreams. This arrangement by Martell and band members Ted Brancato and Tony Viscardo includes a light horn backdrop, along with ethereal guitar and piano play.
On "Without, Within, Martell's whispery voice brings to mind another dreamy jazz diva, Gabriela Anders. Bob Sheppard brings the soprano sax on the upbeat "Blind, a danceable tune that has crossover potentialperhaps finding a home on both the R&B and smooth jazz circuits. While the song may appeal to fans of those genres, it doesn't annoy mainstream jazz lovers with trendy elements like stagnant rhythm tracks, an overwhelming bass line, or everpresent vocals that diminish the roles of supporting musicians.
On the first of three Martell originals, "Better With Time, the singer injects a bit of samba into her romantic overtures. Joined by Trio da Pazguitarist Romero Lubambo, percussionist Eduardo DaFonseca and bassist Nilson MattaMartell delivers a ballad that creates a picture of starstruck couples taking a moonlit stroll along the beaches of Rio. She even delivers a Brazilianesque scat during the fade. Backed by a four-piece string section and Sheppard on tenor sax, Martell goes old school with "Sometimes I Wonder Why, a slow dance anthem reminiscent of the divas who earned their keep in smoke-filled nightclubs of Chicago, New York, and Kansas City.
Martell updates that mood to a more contemporary setting with her second original, "So Different Now, aided by Viscardo's guitar and pianist Allen Farnham. The third original, "Eleven Seventeen, stays in that mode. Trio da Paz returns on "Wayfaring Stranger. This Viscardo/Martell arrangement gives the song a foot-tapping mood despite its message of spiritual yearning.
Throughout The Art of Intimacy, Martell and her supporting cast deliver plenty of romance, though in varying settings and moods. Her voice is silky and at times ghostly, as are the arrangements. While intended to provoke thoughts of love, the album avoids the technical clichés and lyrical cheesiness. It sets the mood with style and elegance.
Dreams; Without Within; Blind; Better With Time; Sometimes I Wonder Why; Love Don
Veronica Martell: vocals; Ted Brancato, Allan Farnham, Matt King: piano; Cliff Schmidt, Jeff
Carney: bass; Tony Viscardo and Hernan Romero: guitars; Emedin Rivera, Frank Valdez:
percussion; Kenny Rampton: trumpet; Gary Valente, Bob Magnusson and Bob Hanlon:
horns; Buddy Williams, Tim Horner: drums; Bob Sheppard: soprano saxophone; Trio da
Paz: Romero Lumbabo: guitar; Eduardo DaFonseca: percussion, and Nilson Matta: bass;
Joyce Hammann, Laura Seaton, Carol Pool and Richard Locker: strings; David Mann:
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