Brianna Thomas is the complete package. Through this music she exhibits emotional depth, to-die-for scat skills, incredible pitch control and shading, strong songwriting skills, intuitively elastic phrasing, soulful bearing, and great range. And all this on a debut album.
You Must Believe In Love finds the Illinois-born, New York-based Thomas spreading her wings and taking glorious flight with some help from a strong and classy piano trio and a half-dozen notable gueststrombonist Wycliffe Gordon, guitarist Russell Malone, and trumpeter Marcus Printup among them. She delivers four originals, covers a Stevie Wonder winner, and tackles well-worn classics like "Stardust,""Bye Bye Blackbird," and "In A Mellow Tone." But she personalizes each and every number, regardless of who wrote it or how much mileage it has on the odometer.
Thomas establishes a daring streak right off the bat, entering "Bye Bye Blackbird" with nothing more than the swinging brushwork of Ulysses Owens, Jr. behind her. The rest of the trio eventually joins in, but that initial contact with her voice remains firmly planted in the mind. Thomas completely owns this song and she delivers some of the best scatting to arrive in recent memory here and elsewhere on the album. Anybody who thinks scat singing is a remnant of the past may just change their mind after hearing this.
Time and again, Thomas manages to raise the bar. She more than holds her own with Malone on "Don't Be That Way," blows the roof off of her own "I Should've Known" and "Bree's Blues," and completely bewitches on her intimate "Stardust" encounter with bassist Yasushi Nakamura. Add to that her wonder-filled take on Wonder's "Never Dreamed You'd Leave In Summer," a double-shot of Ellington, and a compelling "You Must Believe In Spring" duo sendoff with Malone. Singers and listeners take note: Brianna Thomas has arrived.
Bye Bye Blackbird; Don't Be That Way; Love Doesn't Die; I Should Have Known; Daydream; Lover Of My SOul; Never Dreamed You'd Leave In Summer; In A Mellow Tone; Stardust; Bree's Blues; You Must Believe In Spring.
Brianna Thomas: vocals; Allyn Johnson: piano; Yasushi Nakamura: bass; Ulysses Owens Jr.: drums; Russell Malone: guitar (2, 11); Marcus Printup: trumpet (6, 8, 10); Wycliffe Gordon: trombone (3, 4); Nick Grinder: trombone (8); Tivon Penticott: tenor saxophone (8); Riza Printup: harp (6).
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