Meg Bird, Girls Like Lions, Own label ****

Who's breaking through most as a jazz singer from the next generation? Step forward Meg Bird who stands more than a chance if tracks such as 'Not Yet a Lion,' a deft conversation between initially bass-and-voice and even more convincingly the …

Published: 12 Dec 2021. Updated: 47 days.

Who's breaking through most as a jazz singer from the next generation? Step forward Meg Bird who stands more than a chance if tracks such as 'Not Yet a Lion,' a deft conversation between initially bass-and-voice and even more convincingly the singer's interplay with Alexandra Ridout on trumpet, are typical.

And so the whole thing proves on this first foray of a statement of intent produced by the acclaimed classic jazz singer Claire Martin there's a confidence and understated swagger here on Betty Carter's 'Droppin' Things' which opens proceedings. The album title is inspired by a poem of Elisabeth Hewer's.

Londoner Bird attended the Guildhall School of Music and Drama graduating with a top class degree last year and here she is accompanied discreetly by pianist Jay Verma, bassist Seth Tackaberry, as mentioned earlier trumpeter Alex Ridout and drummer Harry Ling. The album includes a bull's eye of a choice in Carla Bley's 'Permanent Wave' and an understated, almost deadpan, version of Paul Simon's 'Still Crazy After all These Years' which works.

More razzle-dazzle at least as far as it gets anywhere on the album is Bird's version of Bob Merrill and Jule Styne Funny Girl song 'Don't Rain on My Parade'. But Bird, who reminds me a little of Polly Gibbons when she was first starting out, seems more at home when the atmosphere is more melancholic. That's when the Bley treatment inures itself most of all. The singer's own 'Reason to Return' is nimble and exultant and allows Bird to find parts of her register that we hadn't heard at least thus far on the album.

Pick of all for me is the version of 'When Sunny Gets Blue,' the Marvin Fisher and Jack Segal song first introduced by Johnny Mathis with Ray Conniff and His Orchestra in 1956. Bird's treatment of Showboat song 'Nobody Else But Me' also has a winning skip to it. So, a textbook way all in all to introduce yourself to the jazz-listening public particularly the subset hard wired to anything touched by the Great American Songbook. New classic jazz singers as accomplished as Bird obviously is already don't come along every day of the week. SG

Tags: Albums and EPsNew artists

2021 overview: trends and directions based on albums of the year

Good jazz can come from anywhere. With musicians recording remotely more than ever the whole notion of location in an online world is a bit old hat and the parameters for collaboration are set wider than ever. Look at the first 10 artists in our …

Published: 12 Dec 2021. Updated: 46 days.

Next post

Good jazz can come from anywhere. With musicians recording remotely more than ever the whole notion of location in an online world is a bit old hat and the parameters for collaboration are set wider than ever. Look at the first 10 artists in our list the first is a South African veteran, the second a reinvented vocalist resident of Los Angeles, the third another American and the fourth an Anglo-American collaboration followed by an American trio of jazz grandees, Brazilian pianist, New Orleanian trumpeter-pianist, US pianist and US singer. Given how isolated we have all been over the past year it's fitting that a solo pianist, Abdullah Ibrahim, sums up the mood by topping the list.

Trends here? What's new most is on Black Acid Soul the splicing effectively as it turns out of torch song deep soul and boomer back catalogue with a credible pared-back jazz sensibility mostly due to Chris Seefried's consummate knack as a producer and guitarist, Deron Johnson in the harmonic infrastructure but even more so in that powerhouse voice of Lady Blackbird. Also novel this year is the way Floating Points has redefined the merging of electronica and spiritual jazz through the method of wrapping the still shattering sound of Pharoah Sanders in a symphonic arrangement drawing on minimalism and the world classic prowess of the London Symphony Orchestra's strings.

The piano trio also has been redefined by Gonzalo Rubalcaba who takes up the mantle of the retired Keith Jarrett by working with Jarrett's drummer Jack DeJohnette and utilising the titanic sense of timing and beat of Second Great Miles Davis Quintet bassist Ron Carter.

The internationalism of the list continues in its second half 10-20 with the presence of more Brits in newcomers Revival Room, singer Jo Harrop keeping world class company with Christian McBride and Andy Davies again in a retro mould, saxist Xhosa Cole again going antique which suits him well, pianist Ivo Neame with one of the big band statements of the year, pianists Matthew Bourne (making the ultimate avant statement of the year in a solo setting) and Fergus McCreadie in trio mode. And in a rare sighting, an Irish leader making a world class album in drummer Kevin Brady making 1970s jazz-rock seem relevant again. With icons like Pat Metheny making the list with perhaps the best live album of Metheny's long and distinguished career turbo charged by James Francies and Marcus Gilmore youth is not necessarily the ingredient the scene needs, in fact with jazz youth is often well down the pecking order given that like the finest wine jazz needs time to age and players need to grow and learn on the bandstand and find wisdom in the studio. The piano trio makes its presence more than felt throughout the list with notable albums by Vijay Iyer, Marcin Wasilewski and Fergus McCreadie. Final thought: a case of taking solace in the solotude sums the year up in one.