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January 13, 2006

Jazz Vocal Debut CD

Written by
cindy mcleod

CD Review – Pop Vocal
Dawn Alexis / Such-A-Bouquet
Indie/2005

Such-A-Bouquet is vocalist Dawn Alexis first release, with 17 original tracks in a variety of feels and styles composed, arranged and performed by the singer and the gifted assembly of players. Ranging from swing to funk, Latin to a march, there’s a lot of music packed into this 60 minutes.

There’s no doubt this woman can sing, there’s power, dimension, confidence and a whole lotta talent here. Her voice is full-throated and robust, with bang-on pitch and a big range. Showing great control yet with emotional abandon, Alexis is a natural, convincing vocalist who can deliver a song.

Although there are a number of jazz oriented feels, purists would bristle if one were to call it a jazz recording. Some tunes fit into that indescribable vein that someone like Tom Waits would occupy, other parts sit in a pop/rock vein. Still other enter the world of broadway, or a production show with a playful side. There are juicy tidbits thrown in as a four part vocal swing intro, and the 1:00 track Foreboding, where Alexis plays all the instruments in an eerie, tension building interlude. The swing track Goin’ the Wrong Way features a great melody and the muted trumpet of Kevin Kasha. Lullaby begins with an a capella performance, introducing Brendan Jacklin’s cello and Chris Jacklin’s flute part way through this compelling version. The title track Such a Bouquet is Alexis’ lovely Latin composition, with the vocalist’s long lines sitting behind the beat in this spacious feel. Her long time accompanist Ken Jefferson appears throughout, and forms part of the superb rhythm section with alternate bassists Kris Craig and Gary Dunitz, and drummers Kelly Scobie (drums/bongos) and John Pain (drums/congas). Ken Burton (electric guitar) and Dave Chabot (bass) make an appearance on the funky rock track Madness (which bears a resemblance to David Bowie’s Fame), and the horn section of Chris Jacklin, (sax/flute) and Kevin Kasha (rumpet) appear on a number of tracks.

This vocal recording may not comfortably sit in a jazz slot, but it is well worth adding to your collection, for Dawn Alexis is going places. We´┐Żll be watching.

CD Review – Jazz Vocal
Anna S. Williams / Odyssey
BBG Records/2005

Ottawa singer Anna S. Williams has released her debut CD recording Odyssey, featuring the jazz vocalist’s hybrid of African and world intonations with mainstream jazz compositions. Williams is backed by a great quartet featuring Nancy Walker (piano), Keiran Overs (bass), Aaron Alexander (drums), Rob Frayne (tenor sax, flute), and Roddy Ellias (ten-string acoustic guitar).

Williams has an earthy, deep voice, and an unusual phrasing style. Her choice of repertoire allows her freedom of feels, phrasing and scat possibilities, with shades of Flora Purim on the open Latin feel of Cameroon, the stirring African feel of Sa Lone, a tribute to her home of Sierra Leone, in which her lament is accompanied by guitarist Roddy Ellias in a spare, essential performance. The title cut Odyssey showcases the vocalist’s biographical lyrics against an urban canvas, with a funky groove laid overtop. Secret Love is presented in a 3/4 waltz, with a sparkling performance by Williams. The final track, a medley of Send in the Clowns and Amazing Grace, ultimately sees the artist in a gospel setting, in a free and loose performance.

There is a stiffness that takes away somewhat from William’s performance, I was left wanting to hear her let go more. Her full-bodied and rich timbre has much room to grow, and at times she seems fearful to commit. That said, there is much potential for Anna S. Williams to become a major artist. Oddysey is a good start to what we hope will be a long career.

One comment for this post.

  1. Comment from Kim on January 17th, 2006 :

    Dawn Alexis,
    I couldnt’ agree with you more about her talent. Ms. Alexis has “power under the hood” and yet she has amazing control and subtlety. There is a theme of honesty that underscores the entire album – from the sensual to the hurt-full; all part of a life well lived. Ms. Alexis seems to share a piece of herself with every song. This lady is a true original and I hope we hear much, much more from her.

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