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Natasha Agrama: The Heart Of Infinite Change

Walter Atkins By

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The Heart Of Infinite Change (Alpha Pup/World Galaxy, 2017), is an update of the 2015 album from songwriter/vocalist Natasha Agrama. In addition to a different record label, the current release features one new track "Lover Man" and deletes four others from the earlier album. Heart consists of songs with music and lyrics by Agrama, Joni Mitchell and others. It focuses on personalized arrangements of works by Henderson, Mingus, Ellington, Landesman, and Bilal. Agrama shows she is a serious storyteller with diverse tastes and a well-honed jazzy, bluesy voice.

Agrama's vocalizing on Joe Henderson's classic "Black Narcissus" sensuously floats above Austin Peralta's keyboard work. His playing gives Heart an 80's jazz flavor without sounding retro. Duke Ellington's "In A Sentimental Mood" is presented in a subdued mellow mood with strings. Heart's strong contender is Charles Mingus's "Goodbye Pork Pie Hat." Agrama's interpretation is a thought provoking take on the elegant jazz requiem dedicated to the influential sax great Lester Young. Combining her expressive phrasing and additional lyrics with Mitchell's words, Agrama provides a historical context and contemporary prospective on the Mingus classic.

Bilal's "All Matter" relatively swings with solid support from talented friends and family. It features keyboards by the celebrated George Duke and bass by her dad, Stanley Clarke who performs on three tracks. The Johnny Mercer/Harold Arlen selection "I Wonder What Became Of Me" radiates a bluesy jazz supper club feel with Agrama's capable presentation.

The album closes with Fran Landesman's melancholic "The Ballad Of The Sad Young Men," recorded by Roberta Flack on her chart topping 1969 debut First Take (Atlantic Records). Dame Shirley Bassey, DBE also had success with the morose tune. Agrama's version of "Ballad," about despondent young men slowly wasting away their lives drink by drink, makes for a chilling cautionary tale.

On The Heart Of Infinite Change, Natasha Agrama conveys she is an articulate songwriter and a surprisingly mature vocalist. The album's scope of material shows a growing singer who easily embraces and incorporates jazz, blues and other idioms into her own voice. It all makes for a promising effort by the artist.

Track Listing: Black Narcissus; Goodbye Pork Pie Hat; In A Sentimental Mood; All Matter; I Wonder What Became Of Me; Lover Man; The Ballad Of The Sad Young Men

Personnel: Agrama-lead vocals; Tony Austin: drums; Mitchell Long: guitar; Austin Peralta: piano, Rhodes; Stephen “Thundercat” Bruner: bass; Ronald Bruner Jr.: drums; George Duke:piano, Rhodes; Stanley Clarke: bass; Vinnie Colaiuta: drums; Rusian Sirota: piano; Hadrien Feraud: bass; Doug Webb: sax

Title: The Heart Of Infinite Change | Year Released: 2017 | Record Label: Alpha Pup/World Galaxy

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