In a climate when the calamitous reversal of Roe v Wade spells global consequences and has chilled the temperature dramatically and the forces of arch prejudice far right conservatism raise their ugly heads once again from under the dankest of stones this exploration of ''the rethinking of our personal values, loss, a woman's right to vote and choice, the invasive culture of modern technology, commitment'' is vital. Carmen Lundy peels away the layers to steal away to speak to and for us all.
Unique among top vocalists in that Lundy's composed songs count as much as the way the American sings them Lundy lives in the real world and writes about what matters, forgetting the trivial but never becoming sententious. She eschews being a poet but is definitely poetic whether framed as a night club jazz singer, concert hall artist or studio creator. And Lundy is a true vocal improviser soaked in the best traditions of the music whether you see it beginning with Betty Carter, or another Carmen - Carmen McRae - or find echoes flickering in the magical sound of Al Jarreau or the emotion of Jimmy Scott distant there and still so true, splice these explored in recent years with Sister Rosetta, the quiet storm and even like Cherise finding ways of doing what Anita Baker did in another idiom on the far side of the blue horizon.
With the singer who also plays keys, guitar and percussion on an album blessed with velvety studio audio tones are a largely familiar company of players - bassist Kenny Davis, trumpeter Giveton Gelin, tenorist Morgan Guerin, drummer Tank ''Vertical Vision'' Gully, Carmen's brother bassist Curtis Lundy, guitarist Andrew Renfroe and the trumpeter Wallace Roney Jr (son of the great Geri Allen and iconic trumpeter Wallace Roney). Pianist Julius Rodriguez excellent this year on Let Sound Tell All returns and tenorist Camille Thurman, Matthew Whitaker on organ and keys is also here and particularly appealing on the moving rites and rituals of 'Rest in Peace.'
Best arrangement here is on 'Reverence' where the horns riff and rumble within a clever and grooving blend. The core register of Lundy's voice is higher than Betty Carter's and the improvising method her own certainly more decorative than Carter extravagant. She is less Betty bebop and yet the bedrock of some bebop lines flicker so well say when Camille Thurman steals a few moments on the ''everybody's talking'' track 'Reverence.'
The centrepiece anti-racism, anti-misogny political song 'Ain't I Human' with its fabulous initial intervallic vocal leap is direct but quietly and very elegantly delivered. In that softly spoken aspect Lundy achieves twice the impact that any ranting ideologue can. 'Lonesome Blue Butterfly' and 'Say Her Name' are easily the best songs lyrically the former where the band start to react more prominently and Gully sizzles. Rodriguez is moved to contribute a sensational solo. 'Say Her Name' has an oblique personality to its melody that Carmen conveys so well. 'Rest in Peace' is perfect in its enchantment at the end. Who can truly prove that they can take a single however mundane note for a walk and make it not just run but fly Carmen can.
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