Vocalist Aimée Allen arrived on the scene in 2006 with Dream (Azuline Music). She then digitally released L'Inexplicable (Azuline, 2007) followed by Winters and Mays (Azuline, 2011) and Matter of Time (Azuline, 2015). With Wings Uncaged Allen's socially observant style reaches a new maturity.
The standard "Invitation" is given a refreshingly modern arrangement. Francois Moutin's warm bass sonorities create a novel setting for the well-known melody. Allen's diction is clear and her rhythmic delivery precise. She takes her time sliding into and out of key notes, as a horn player or guitarist might. This lends an expressive element and allows Allen's phrasing to sound contemporary. The quartet blends well together, supporting Allen and giving her space. She sounds comfortably at home with a standards repertoire.
Allen shows on Wings Uncaged that she is also adept at songwriting. "Shooting Star" displays an imaginative approach to lyrics and melody. Allen has a poetic sensibility and tells a story in an imaginative and thought-provoking way; its depth is instantly felt. Both Moutin and pianist Billy Test turn in excellent performances and help make the song sound as strong as the standards elsewhere on the disc.
Allen consistently strives for excellence. You can hear it in her risk-taking lyrics and the way she phrases. These qualities make for an alluring listen. The jazz tradition is always worth respecting, but when an artist tackles their own material with Allen's grace and boldness the result is even more compelling. Wings Uncaged signals a great future for Allen, not only as a performer but also as a composer.
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