Youn Sun Nah, Lento, ACT

From 2013. There is something very distinctive about Youn Sun Nah as Voyage in 2009 first indicated, and live, too, the singer showed huge talent based on technique and improvisational freedom. At her first UK concert that year, singing in …

Published: 1 Dec 2019. Updated: 2 years.

From 2013. There is something very distinctive about Youn Sun Nah as Voyage in 2009 first indicated, and live, too, the singer showed huge talent based on technique and improvisational freedom.

At her first UK concert that year, singing in Portuguese, French on Jacques Brel’s ‘Ne Me Quitte Pas’, as well as a knowing version of Jim Pepper’s ‘Witchi Tai To’ and Esbjörn Svensson’s ‘Believe Beleft Below’, Sun Nah greatly impressed a jazz club audience at the Vortex with superb melismatic control and dynamic poise especially in the softer passages.

Follow-up Same Girl was a big seller for the South Korean singer in France, and Lento on paper has plenty of possibilities. However, this latest album, released later this month lacks the spark of Voyage and charisma of Same Girl, although with her fine band of guitarist Ulf Wakenius, illustrious bassist Lars Danielsson, the added accordion of Vincent Peirani and the percussion of Xavier Desandre-Navarre, the framework is there.

Lento can be overly dramatic and the singer’s self-penned ‘Lament’ is certainly in that category, while the awful cowboy song ‘Ghost Riders in the Sky’ I could do without entirely. Navigating material from Nine Inch Nails to Scriabin and back is clearly adventurous, but Youn Sun Nah’s latest requires a leap of faith from even the most fearless listener to work on any significant level. SG

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René Marie, I Wanna Be Evil (With Love to Eartha Kitt), Motéma

From 2013. Setting off at quite a clip before you know it after a crescendo, cackle, wonky horn flourishes and all on ‘I’d Rather Be Burned as a Witch’ René Marie is as spirited a jazz performer as you could ever possibly wish for. A late starter …

Published: 1 Dec 2019. Updated: 2 years.

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From 2013. Setting off at quite a clip before you know it after a crescendo, cackle, wonky horn flourishes and all on ‘I’d Rather Be Burned as a Witch’ René Marie is as spirited a jazz performer as you could ever possibly wish for. A late starter only beginning her professional music career in 1997 at the age of 42, the Virginia-born singer/songwriter has a kicking pianist along for the ride in super-supple support (that’s Kevin Bales), lively very informed bass from Elias Bailey, and requisite classy time keeping from drummer Quentin Baxter plus long time Wynton close musical associate Wycliffe Gordon on trombone, trumpeter Etienne Charles, and tenorist Adrian Cunningham on board the three of them arpeggiating and wailing towards the end of 'I'd Rather Be' before Marie signs off with “got a match?”. There’s lovely clarinet from Cunningham at the beginning of ‘C’est si bon’ as Marie continues in more demure fashion after the raucous opener.

In the notes Marie recalls first being aware of Kitt playing Catwoman as she watched her on TV as a young girl, and later actually seeing her perform at the Carlyle in New York. Kitt has never left her, and this album resurrects Kitt's indomitable spirit for sure. I must confess I’m not familiar with all of Marie’s albums but I enjoyed Black Lace Freudian Slip, also released by Motéma, and this is even better. It doesn’t feel retro but it sounds timeless and Marie is a classic jazz singer no doubt about it, a hint of Betty Carter here and there maybe, and you could cite the late Etta James as well too while you're at it. In a year when Cécile McLorin Salvant has dazzled with her debut WomanChild this fits in nicely with vintage and to an extent theatrical jazz evocative of a bygone age. Ten tracks include a great version of ‘Peel Me a Grape’ (makes Diana Krall’s seem quite tame by comparison) and best of all a nuanced take on Cole Porter’s ‘My Heart Belongs to Daddy’. It’s one of the most sensual female jazz vocals albums to come along in a long while, up there with McLorin Salvant’s, and Liane Carroll’s collection of torch songs, Ballads. Marie tucks in one of her own songs, the complex and absorbing ‘Weekend’, at the end. SG