Sarah Brown, Sings Mahalia Jackson, Live Records ****

Ah, the sufferin' did show in your eyes as we spoke, And the gospel music, The voice of Mahalia Jackson came through the ether, Oh my common one with the coat so old, And the light in the head Van Morrison 'Summertime in England' from Common One, …

Published: 17 May 2022. Updated: 2 months.

Ah, the sufferin' did show in your eyes as we spoke,

And the gospel music,

The voice of Mahalia Jackson came through the ether,

Oh my common one with the coat so old,

And the light in the head

Van Morrison 'Summertime in England' from Common One, 1980

Did you get healed? Reasonable question. Simple Minds backing singer Sarah Brown making her debut is superb on a very fine Mahalia Jackson songbook album. It's of course gospel and yet there is a lot of jazz here (mainly in the piano and organ arrangements) which isn't often the case on most gospel although gospel has fed directly in to jazz for a hundred years via the African American church but exists in a whole world of its own usually as a genre. (But think: call and response routines among instrumentalists let alone singers and that's just for starters)

The rhumba feel of 'I'm On My Way' is an early high spot here. ''At 10 years old, I remember hopelessly trying to sing along to her bellowing thunder of a voice. In my bedroom I would become her. I chose these songs because they tell of my story. Growing up in a Caribbean home to parents who were a long way from their home. Anger and fear were the two prominent emotions that I lived with,'' Brown has commented regarding her route to Mahalia.

Best of all done as if we are in the deep countryside with simple guitar hard up against the vocal, and up there with Van Morrison's very different 1990s version on Hymns to the Silence, on 'Just a Closer Walk' which is the best version that I know by anyone covering a spiritual associated with Mahalia although there are lots of great versions around.

You don't have to be a Christian to appreciate this album. It works on multiple levels and is excellent given the power and flexibility of Brown's voice and is the most relevant vocals gospel record we've reviewed since the very fine Mica Paris album, Gospel.

If there's any justice Brown, who reminds me a little of Dana Masters, will have to start enlarging the size of her mantle piece when specialist awards season comes around and it is commercial-sounding enough to sell without in the least selling out. But hey we're not mystic Meg but worth manifesting.

So, did you get healed, returning to that question at the beginning? That's an easy enough yes, in however way you think it, given the sheer quality here and Brown would work well among the singers on the opening night gala of the London Jazz Festival if free and Guy Barker is still looking and you'd guess digs. SG

Released on Friday. Sarah Brown, top

updated, 20 May 2022

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Tags: reviews

Emma Smith, 'I Don't Care,' Wingsor Castle Records ****

Track of the day is Harry Sutton-Jean Lenox song 'I Don't Care' synonymous with Judy Garland (on 1949's In the Good Old Summertime) from Meshuga Baby, ''meshuga'' meaning ''crazy'' in Yiddish, a terrific romp of a classic vocals number from lively …

Published: 16 May 2022. Updated: 2 months.

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Track of the day is Harry Sutton-Jean Lenox song 'I Don't Care' synonymous with Judy Garland (on 1949's In the Good Old Summertime) from Meshuga Baby, ''meshuga'' meaning ''crazy'' in Yiddish, a terrific romp of a classic vocals number from lively Puppini Sisters singer and ex-Jazz Now BBC Radio 3 presenter Emma Smith very crisply comped by Jamie Safir on piano opposite. Conor Chaplin on double bass delivers a neat figure at the conclusion of the boisterous vocal.

'But Not For Me' is also streaming with the full album out next month. The Gershwins' song was an early highlight of Smith and Safir's live set at Crazy Coqs last July and on that occasion the ultimate statement was a bravura treatment of Irving Berlin's 'There's No Business Like Show Business' channelling Ethel Merman and which is also included on this upcoming record (Luke Tomlinson on drums completes the playing personnel). The Cy Coleman-Dorothy Fields classic 'Where Am I Going' from Sweet Charity is closer at least live to Barbra Streisand's sound than Dusty Springfield's or Dionne Warwick's version of the song and also on the album as too is Safir and Smith's witty 'Monogamy Blues.'

Link to the Bandcamp page for more info. Emma hosts her Jazz Hang at the Blue Check during Watford's Jazz Junction on Friday in Bushey

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