Carmen Lundy's latest collection of original contemporary jazz music is nothing short of a revelation. It is about 70 minutes of jubilation spewing forth from a confident artist and her band upon achieving a higher level. Allow me to say a few words about my favorite works in the collection.
The opening track KINDRED SPIRITS may be Carmen’s life story though it sounds like it could be the biography of any of us and I think that’s why it connects. I am particularly taken by both her chord changes and the elastic fluidity of her searching voice. It’s quite an accomplishment that she brings such power and depth to a song that could be on the Top 40 jazz charts. Drummer Jamison Ross and Darryl Hall on electric bass push the track to places with an uplifting feel generating a power seldom felt in modern jazz.
The second cut in the collection entitled LIFE IS A SONG IN ME lays down a sultry groove that serves as the perfect foundation for Carmen’s vocal journey. Patrice Rushen’s work on Rhodes is a smooth atmospheric ride over the relaxed rolling track. The chorus almost becomes a sort of African chant and once it’s in your brain it’s there to stay.
The title tone SOUL TO SOUL adds Randy Brecker on trumpet and flugelhorn and Ava Rovatti on the tenor sax. Ms. Lundy’s voice floats gently above a dreamy track that slides between keys and time signatures with an ease and grace. There are few if any serious jazz vocalists taking the chances Carmen Lundy is taking. This sort of exploration is common amongst instrumentalists but seldom is it practiced by a vocalist and even less seldomly by a vocalist of the breadth and depth of Carmen Lundy. Jamison Ross is a wonderful drummer who twists and turns and pulls everything together with a tasty light tough and impeccable feel.
When I saw the show at The Jazz Standard in NYC in December 2014, Carmen did the song WHEN WILL THEY LEARN and she prefaced the song with the explanation that the lyric referred to drugs. I found that an interesting inference because upon first listening I was drawn to a possible political explanation of the lyric. Again Carmen wraps her voice around a beautiful melodic slant complimented beautifully by her comfortable band. Carol Robbins work on the harp adds a completely unexpected dimension to the track.
DAYBREAK is a peppy ode to Carmen’s “baby”. It’s a jumpy little piece of bop. Just when I expected to hear a tenor sax break cutting through, Warren Wolf threw me a curve with his thoughtful vibes.
The next track is called BETWEEN THE DARKNESS AND THE DAWN, and it’s a syncopated word poem in a bluesy style made memorable by the interesting flights of Carmen’s scat singing.
One of my faves on the collection is GRACE. I can see the African plains…a long line of women in white…under a bright blue sky and great puffs of white clouds…the Mississippi delta in June..this music evokes so many images. The relaxed mood allows the vocals to breathe in a completely new light finding their way above a nostalgic track. The lyric is a thankful prayer for the amazing grace that has woven itself through so many lives.
The mood become more uptempo with GRATEFUL. Patrice Rushen’s piano pushes the track ever forward as Ms. Lundy expresses her gratitude in a bright and engaging swing. Bennie Maupin’s tenor say is just the right accompaniment to the spirit of the song.
EVERYTHING I NEED is a mid tempo bossa nova groove that pulls us in to Carmen Lundy’s warm and engaging vocal performance. Her expressions of love for her special one are both genuine and flowing.
WHAT’S YOUR STORY, MORNING GLORY wraps up the collection. It’s an odd little tune. It’s sort of a collision between Carmen’s classic past and her newer musical explorations. It comes together in an easy sultry kind of meltdown. An interesting end to a very interesting collection of music. If you haven’t discovered Carmen Lundy and her amazing music, SOUL TO SOUL is as good a place to start as any. I would also highly recommend her albums CHANGES…and one of her oldies NIGHT AND DAY. Truly brilliant stuff !