Carmen Lundy! This is a wonderful, heartfelt, and creative record by the incomparable but as yet still unreknowned diva, the one-and-only Carmen Lundy.
Lundy recently signed onto JustinTime and this is her first record for the label, a program of almost entirely originals that acquits her well both as a worthy songwriter and a true luminary in the field of jazz vocalists. Musicians on board to support Carmen Lundy include her self- professed "anchor, her rock" brother Curtis Lundy- who stars both on bass and in the production wings, Bobby Watson- majestic on alto and as a horn arranger here, Onaje Allen Gumbs: a longtime collaborator on piano, the equally fine Ralph Peterson or Victor Lewis on drums and young cats Mark Shim, Kevin Louis, and Anthony Wonsey, on Tenor, Trumpet, and Piano respectively.
Onto the music. Lundy opens this program brash and upbeat with the erotic tale"All Day, All Night." It features a very tasteful overdub of Carmen providing a refrain chorus to her lyrics, that is the title itself. The ever-tasteful Bobby Watson has created a horn hook for "The End of A Love Affair" that is just so lovely and mellow. It makes you want to smile to yourself, this all in spite of the melancholy theme- in that sense it is like the blues, accepting misfortune and disappointment but vowing to "get through it" with one's sense of joy in life, preserved. "Now That He's Gone" by contrast, has a "noir" feel, egged on for sure by Kevin Louis' moody mute work and Wonsey's spare chordings.
There is a sure range of feeling on this program, as melancholy quickly changes to triumphant feeling, and triumph then gives way to mellow - "Better Luck Next Time" is a fast and bold piece built on descending fourths, whereas "Send Me Someone to Love" is positively bluesy and mellow in a rather "Sade" way.
Later on in the program, Lundy builds a lyrical bridge to the Langston Hughes poem "One More River to Cross", an invocation to progress by revisiting the rivers already travelling through the heritage of his people. Without even mentioning the uplifting character of the lyrics, this offers a different feel to the rest of the record as it strives for a sense of epic intensity, aided no doubt by a very Trane-like intro led off by Onaje Allen Gumbs' rolling chords. "Seventh Heaven" similarly, is a didactic piece and is dedicated to Kenny Kirkland- the lyrics don't seem to correspond to his life specifically but rather to that of someone trying to exert a difference on the realities of their time, which of course Kenny's friends would say he definitely did. There are musical references to Kenny contained therein also.
Carmen Lundy, according to the back of her cd, has a fan club. Consider this reviewer now a most definite fan! I had only heard Carmen on her appearances on her brother's records, but this record shows me clearly what I have been missing. This is a beautiful person whose radiance and soul don't go hiding when she hits that microphone. She deserves more acclaim in a critics world where the constant refrain is that there are no good vocalists anymore, when Lundy has been with us for some time and now seems to be truly hitting her stride.