Lauren Lee is a talented pianist and composer, and a singer with a flexibility and sense of adventure in her voice which give her music a light, optimistic feel, although repeated listening reveals it has surprising depth and complexity. She brings elements of art song into the realm of pop-jazz as if she were Meredith Monk invading a Steely Dan recording session.
The opener, "Windowsill," establishes the concept, with Lee's wordless voice drifting airily through her band's shifting tempos as they move from hushed to bouncy to strutting. In addition to that, she takes a sprightly piano solo as bassist Marcos Varela and drummer Andy O'Neill give her quietly propulsive support. On "Get Off Me" she chirps sprightly "kiss-off" lyrics over a melody which alternates subtle funk with cranky merry-go-round riffs. Brad Mulholland's soulful alto brings more grit into the mix. "So Long"'s waltz-time rhythm has a hint of John Coltrane's version of "My Favorite Things." Lee's voice happily glides over the song's melody, closely paired with the alto sax, before she goes into a passage of scat singing which bubbles like running water. This song, like many on the disc, also shows that Lee has a talent for singing long strings of words in an unbroken flow over roller-coaster melodies. Her songs almost sound like a jazz version of Gilbert and Sullivan.
Lee can be just as effective when no lyrics are involved, such as when her scatting melds together with electric piano and alto on the dreamy jazz fusion of "Aback." On "X-Berg" there is a notable section of multi-tracked wordless voices wrapping around Mulholland's piping clarinet. On "Tomorrow Is Coming" Lee's piano and voice wander abstractly along with flute and the rhythm section before her moaning resolves into a tender, urbane ballad which edges into Laura Nyro's universe. On the closing "She Who Journeys," she wordlessly babbles alongside flute, clarinet and rhythm, eventually building a relaxed foundation for Mulholland's rolling alto solo. Lee then responds to this with her own solo, playing and scatting together with an ebullient, insistent groove.
Lauren Lee's music is a distinctive blend of elements which she fits together with surprising ease. Her voice stretches effortlessly over angular, zigzagging melodies, assembled in the context of breezy original jazz songs. Her sound is fresh and distinctive.
Windowsil; X-Berg; Get Off Me; Peaks and Valleys; Tomorrow is Coming; So Long; Aback; She Who Journeys
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