74

Emma Smith: The Huntress

Bruce Lindsay By

Sign in to view read count
Emma Smith: The Huntress "Experienced" is seldom an appropriate adjective to apply to a 21 year-old performer, but it's perfectly apposite when applied to singer and composer Emma Smith. She began singing with a big band at the age of 14 and was, barely a year later, a mainstay of Britain's National Youth Jazz Orchestra. With the support of musicians such as Sir John Dankworth and Nikki Iles, and an ever-increasing list of club and festival performances, Smith is rapidly becoming one of the most exciting singers on the UK scene: The Huntress is an assured and fascinating debut.

On The Huntress Smith is joined by the talented and sympathetic trio of pianist Matt Robinson, bassist Tim Thornton and drummer Andy Ball. Saxophonist Stan Sulzmann guests to superb effect on three tunes. Smith's songwriting draws its inspiration from a wide spectrum of influences. Most intriguingly, on "The Huntress" and "Stolen Child" she displays a direct connection with the folk traditions of the British Isles—moving stylistically closer to singers like Norma Waterson and Sandy Denny. She also delivers a lovely version of the traditional tune "She's Like The Swallow."

Smith's lyrics are creatively enigmatic, coupling strong imagery with a sense of mystery. The barefooted huntress of the title track is a scary, potentially murderous, character. But who exactly could she be? "Make believe is my favorite game" sings Smith, adding to the puzzle. The theme of "Stolen Child" (based on W. B. Yeats' poem of the same name, although Yeats doesn't get any credit on the album sleeve) harks back to the world of Faerie and changelings swapped for mortal babies: not the usual fare for a jazz album. Songs like "Room Service" and "56 Weeks," featuring a standout solo from Robinson, are more straight-ahead, but no less stylish.

The real diamond in this sparkling collection is Smith's reading of Sammy Fain and Irving Kahal's "I'll Be Seeing You." It's a restrained, beautifully paced, performance. Smith's vocal has a perfect mix of technique and emotional engagement while Sulzmann's tenor saxophone weaves in and out of her voice and builds the emotional impact to an irresistible high.

As might be expected at the age of 21, there is a touch of youthful over-exuberance: the narrative mid-section of "The Huntress" crosses the line from drama to melodrama and loses the impact Smith created in the more atmospheric opening section. But taking chances is ultimately much more interesting than playing it safe and the overall feel of The Huntress is impressive. Smith comes across as a confident and mature artist and composer, a precocious talent who has produced an exceptional debut album.

Track Listing: The Huntress; Old Devil Moon; Stolen Child; Can't Slow Down; I'll Be Seeing You; She's Like The Swallow; Room Service; Don't Worry 'Bout Me; 56 Weeks; John's Law.

Personnel: Emma Smith: vocals; Matt Robinson: piano; Tim Thornton: bass; Andy Ball: drums; Stan Sulzmann: saxophones (5, 9, 10).

Title: The Huntress | Year Released: 2012 | Record Label: Frantic Jazz


Tags

Related Video

comments powered by Disqus

More Articles

Read Saluting Sgt. Pepper CD/LP/Track Review Saluting Sgt. Pepper
by Karl Ackermann
Published: June 22, 2017
Read Thick as Thieves CD/LP/Track Review Thick as Thieves
by Jack Bowers
Published: June 22, 2017
Read Dream Within A Dream CD/LP/Track Review Dream Within A Dream
by Ian Patterson
Published: June 22, 2017
Read Live At The High Noon CD/LP/Track Review Live At The High Noon
by Doug Collette
Published: June 22, 2017
Read As It Should Be: Ballads 2 CD/LP/Track Review As It Should Be: Ballads 2
by Dan Bilawsky
Published: June 21, 2017
Read Karoujite CD/LP/Track Review Karoujite
by John Eyles
Published: June 21, 2017
Read "Koan" CD/LP/Track Review Koan
by Mark Corroto
Published: August 12, 2016
Read "Sounds Of 3" CD/LP/Track Review Sounds Of 3
by Mark Sullivan
Published: August 17, 2016
Read "Forage" CD/LP/Track Review Forage
by Dan McClenaghan
Published: February 16, 2017
Read "Ida Lupino" CD/LP/Track Review Ida Lupino
by Mark Sullivan
Published: September 15, 2016
Read "Running After The Sun" CD/LP/Track Review Running After The Sun
by Bruce Lindsay
Published: June 7, 2017
Read "Sir Nebula" CD/LP/Track Review Sir Nebula
by Doug Collette
Published: September 18, 2016

Join the staff. Writers Wanted!

Develop a column, write album reviews, cover live shows, or conduct interviews.