Young female jazz vocalists often launch their recording careers with fresh interpretations of standards. While some of these ventures are successful, it all too often happens that we never hear from these divas again. Hopefully, that will not be the case with Abigail Riccards, whose When the Night Is New certainly fits the mold left by artists such as Renee Olstead and Robin McKelle.
Riccards comes onto the scene with some impressive credentials. She was a 2004 semifinalist in the Thelonious Monk International Jazz Vocal Competition, and in 2006 toured the Middle East and played a week in Yemen for the U.S. State Department. She has also won two Down Beat honors: outstanding collegiate vocalist (2002) and outstanding collegiate vocal jazz group (2004). Her career so far has placed her in association with such jazz names as Mulgrew Miller, George Duke, Toots Thielemans and Joe Lovano.
Riccards injects a bit of sass in pianist David Berkman's arrangement of "East of the Sun, her piccolo alto offering a mix of power and beauty. Berkman's solo helps accent this piece, as do Matt Wilson's drum play and Ron Horton's trumpet solo, with bassist Ben Allison also contributing. Riccards is part voice, part flute on "The Very Thought of You, aided by guitarist Lage Lund's solo.
"The Thrill Is Gone, by Lew Brown and Ray Henderson, is not to be confused with the B.B. King blues classic. Riccards delivers this upbeat though melancholy track with the same verve that she employs throughout the album, with Berkman featured on organ. He then offers an odd-time arrangement of the Rodgers and Hammerstein classic, "It Might as Well Be Spring, accented by Riccard's lead and Wilson's drums. Adam Kolker adds a charming saxophone solo. Kolker's bass clarinet brings a nice texture for "I Didn't Know What Time It Was.
The musicians crank it up a notch for Cole Porter's "Just One of Those Things. Riccards perfectly executes the highs and lows of this song, both in notation and volume. Horton and Kolker form an ideal horn duo.
Riccards stays true to the formula, launching her recording career with an album of standards. However, her vocal style and the fresh arrangements, mostly by Berkman, make this album more adventurous than others. It's a process that works for When the Night Is New.
But Beautiful; East of the Sun; The Very Thought of You; You Don't Know What Love Is; The Thrill is Gone; If I Should Lose You; It Might As Well Be Spring; I Didn't Know What Time It Was; Left Alone; Just One of Those Things; I Was Brought to My Senses; I'll Be Seeing You.
Abigail Riccards: vocals; David Berkman: piano, organ; Ben Allison: bass; Matt Wilson: drums; Adam Kolker: woodwinds; Ron Horton: trumpet, flugelhorn; Lage Lund: guitar; Rogerio Boccato: percussion.