OBE for YolanDa Brown

Saxophonist YolanDa Brown has been made an OBE in the New Year Honours. The 40-year-old is honoured for her services to music, music education and broadcasting. Earlier in the year the Afrobeat and reggae-loving jazz tenor saxophonist and TV …

Published: 31 Dec 2022. Updated: 34 days.

Saxophonist YolanDa Brown has been made an OBE in the New Year Honours. The 40-year-old is honoured for her services to music, music education and broadcasting. Earlier in the year the Afrobeat and reggae-loving jazz tenor saxophonist and TV presenter became chair of the British Phonographic Industry (BPI). She says: “I am really honoured to receive this award. My career continues to be eclectic and doesn’t fit in a box, so I am grateful to everyone who continues to walk with me as a musician, broadcaster or campaigner for children and their access to music education. I dedicate this honour to my Grandma, who passed away recently and taught me faith, belief, and resilience, and also to my daughters as they fill the world with love on their journey.” YolanDa Brown, photo: BPI

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Fred Hersch and Esperanza Spalding, Alive at the Village Vanguard, Palmetto ****

A different, more exposed and classic vocals side to the artistry of Esperanza Spalding exhibited here in an intimate duo with the ever masterful Fred Hersch. Gain a sense of jazz club verity given Spalding's badinage with the audience, laughter, …

Published: 30 Dec 2022. Updated: 35 days.

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A different, more exposed and classic vocals side to the artistry of Esperanza Spalding exhibited here in an intimate duo with the ever masterful Fred Hersch. Gain a sense of jazz club verity given Spalding's badinage with the audience, laughter, the energy and whoosh of people in a room in the presence of live music somehow translated into the audio backdrop without at all seeming as if preserved in aspic.

Recorded in 2018 at the famous Greenwich Village club where so many classic jazz albums have been created this January 2023 release is a shoo-in new entry to the lesser known vocals wing of the pantheon. Spalding has a laidback manner as a jazz singer - on her own records she does not resort to what is so expected of a singer as an archetype so much as here - and can go into overdrive effortlessly especially when taking a note for a walk, scat and run are concerned. Hear that facility particularly on the Gismonti masterclass 'Lôro' from the 1980s and Spalding's soloing on 'Dream of Monk.'

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The duo's take on Neal Hefti and Bobby Troup's 'Girl Talk' covered in the last decade by singers as contrasting to Spalding's approach as Kate McGarry, Eliane Elias and Sasha Dobson has an ideal Hersch introduction. Spalding's studied playfulness is compelling.

Throughout an album that seems over far too soon there is a lot of lightness and joie de vivre, the latter aspect best of all expressed on Charlie Parker's '[My] Little Suede Shoes' that finds Hersch reaching into the innards of the piano in his introduction for an extra tactile sense that proves apt given the crisp bite of Spalding's scat.

Their version is certainly very different to the enjoyable but certainly more ''do-be-do'' treatment heard on Hersch's collaboration with Nancy King on 2006's Live at Jazz Standard.

Finally, and without being at all UK centric, the best thing of all about the album is easily the version of the Norma Winstone, Hersch ''valentine'' Songs and Lullabies (Sunnyside, 2003) collaboration 'A Wish' that Spalding captures cognitively so winningly.

For fans of both Hersch, more parallel co-voyager than hidden-in-plain-sight accompanist, Spalding and jazz vocals more generally there is no better way to begin 2023 once champagne bubbles are out of the way and serious listening begins once again in all foreverness. Esperanza Spalding and Fred Hersch, photo: Chris Drukker

Out on 6 January

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