The Heart Of Infinite Change (Roxboro Entertainment Group), the debut album from songwriter/vocalist Natasha Agrama is an intriguing ten-track mix of original compositions and impeccable jazz standards. The album consists of 3 songs with music and lyrics by Agrama, plus one each by Joni Mitchell and Osho with additional lyrics. The balance comes from personalized arrangements of jazz works by Mingus, Ellington, Landesman, Henderson and Bilal. Agrama shows she is a serious storyteller with diverse tastes and a well-honed jazzy, bluesy voice.
The Agrama/Osho song "Circles" is a somber, slow tempo piece of past love combined with the emotional difficulty of moving forward in life and love. The message to focus and live in the moment is profoundly stated here. "Stand Still" is also a story of forlorn love.
Heart 's centerpiece is Agrama's emotive "The Pull Of You," an urgent and provocative composition delivered with conviction. The saxophones and trombone lines by Kamasi Washington, Zane Musa Quartet and Ryan Porter add to the intensity of the track. Stephen Bruner's bass furnishes good underpins for the number. "Just Left," another original, also discusses emotional loss. Nick Mancini's vibraphone gives the track an almost dream quality.
Another strong contender here 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.
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 tone with strings.
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 step father, 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 first effort by the artist.
UPDATE. Only one track was previously released by Roxboro Entertainment. The full album worldwide release on CD, vinyl, tape and digital is set for September 8th, 2017 on the Alpha Pup/World Galaxy label.
Circles; The Pull Of You; Stand Still; Just Left; Black
Narcissus; Goodbye Pork Pie Hat; In A
Sentimental Mood; All Matter; I Wonder What Became Of Me;
The Ballad Of The Sad Young
Natasha Agrama: lead vocals; Miles Mosely drums (1,4)
Brandon Coleman piano (1,4);
Austin drums (1,4,9); Mitchell Long guitar (1,4,7,8,10);
Nick Mancini vibraphone (1,4);
Patrice Quinn background vocals; Austin Peralta piano,
Rhodes (2,3,5,6); Stephen
“Thundercat” Bruner bass (2,3,5,6); Ronald Bruner drums
Jr. (2,3,5,6); Kamasi
sax (2); Ryan Porter trombone (2); Zane Musa soprano sax
(2,3); Artyom Manukyan cello
(3); George Duke piano, Rhodes (7,8) Stanley Clarke bass
(7,8,10); Vinnie Colaiuta
(7,8,10); Rusian Sirota piano (9);Hadrien Feraud bass
(9);Doug Webb sax (7,10)