From Brooklyn, influenced by Sarah Vaughan at a young age, later a student at the Manhattan School of Music, singer Charenée Wade was a runner-up in the Thelonious Monk Vocal competition in 2010, and regularly sings at Jazz @ Lincoln Center.
Offering was actually recorded at a studio in the J@LC complex over three days of mid-July 2013. And according to the label this is the first full-length tribute to Scott-Heron and Jackson by a female artist.
It’s less than two years since the release of Evolutionary Minded: Furthering The Legacy of Gil Scott-Heron, also on Motéma put together by Kentyah Fraser, a more hip-hop grounded tribute, the two albums occupying different vantage points to view Scott-Heron and Jackson’s body of work, only Gregory Porter’s take on that album of ‘Song of the Wind’ coming closest to the approach of this new much more jazz-centric release.
Joining Wade on the album are pianist Brandon McCune, known for his work with Nnenna Freelon; guitarist Dave Stryker; distinguished Cassandra Wilson bassist Lonnie Plaxico; drummer Alvester Garnett, and vibist Stefon Harris. Guests are alto saxophonist Lakecia Benjamin; Cosby Show actor Malcolm Jamal-Warner delivering what amounts to an eloquent oration; and Marcus Miller on bass clarinet all on ‘Essex/Martin, Grant Byrd and Till’, plus the speaking voice, like a very hip preacher, tantalisingly briefly, of Christian McBride on the introduction to ‘Peace Go With You Brother’ from Winter in America. The album was produced by Chicago DJ and writer Mark Ruffin.
Opening with the title track ‘Offering’ (from The First Minute of a New Day) followed by ‘Song of the Wind’ (from 1977 album Bridges), ‘A Toast to the People’, on the earlier From South Africa to South Carolina, and ‘Home is Where the Hatred Is’ from The Revolution Will Not Be Televised, ‘Aint’ No Such Thing as Superman’ like ‘Offering’ from 1975 album The First Minute of a New Day, is when Wade’s album simply lifts off: McCune superb, Wade soaring over the top of the inspired rhythm section’s funkily channelled energy, the singer’s Betty Carter-into-Sarah Vaughan sprit slipping and sliding into a freer space.
Lakecia Benjamin on sax testifies at the beginning of the big statement of the album ‘Essex/Martin, Grant Byrd and Till’ the deep tones of Miller on bass clarinet her sonic beacon the album taking on its most spiritual aspect. Jamal-Warner speaks of the “inner city blues” and “a cry for the new day” railing against police brutality, sadly nothing changes all these years on from when the song first appeared, before Wade then comes in like silk.
Bass takes the lead with Plaxico beginning ‘Western Sunrise’ (again from The First Minute of a New Day) as he does ‘The Vulture’ the latter taking on a head-bobbingly swung momentum to it Garnett taking up the reins. McBride provides the message on ‘Peace Go With You Brother’ like he’s delivering the Grace at a church service... “all the family must be together.” And there’s optimism by the end on ‘I Think I’ll Call It Morning’ from Pieces of a Man.
Poised and unhurried throughout, technically strong and in control at all times Wade is practically walking on water here, her interpretation of these great songs simply divine. SG