Thursday, July 26, 2018

Lucia Jackson's You and the Night and the Music

For a guy who has done his share of complaining about the preponderance of female voice recordings in contemporary jazz, not to mention audiophile obsessions with those same recordings, I'm certainly confronted with an embarrassment of riches right now. Just a few weeks after hearing Jacqueline Tabor's fabulous, near-perfect The Lady in the Gown, I suddenly have a plethora of new CDs that feature women jazz singers--and some of them are downright exquisite. Lucia Jackson's debut album, You and the Night and the Music, was the one that really leapt out at me at first listen, and for a number of reasons. First of all, I immediately connected with her voice. It doesn't have the rich, deep undercurrents of Tabor's voice, but it does have that charming girlishness that I hear in Ella Fitzgerald, that clarity that translates into honesty when it comes to supplying the meaning behind the lyrics.

Like The Lady in the Gown, this album also includes a gorgeous small ensemble that captures the magic of the late '50s and early '60s, something in the air that propels me back into Julie London's best recordings. Perhaps this is because her father is the great jazz guitarist Ron Jackson, master of the 7-string electric archtop, and he has produced this album and arranged these classics and supplied the vision. (His daughter did help with the arrangements of "Sophisticated Lady," "I'm a Fool to Want You" and her own composition "Feel the Love.") Father and daughter blend beautifully with the rest of the ensemble, pianist Yago Vasquez, bassist Matt Clohesy and drummer Corey Rawls, and we're also treated to special appearances such as Dan Garcia's flamenco guitar on "Feel the Love" and Javier Sanchez's sweet and wistful bandoneon on "I'm a Fool to Want You."

The story behind Lucia Jackson is intriguing as well. Like Janelle Monae, she was a dancer and a model and her career was going in all the right directions. But there's a problem--like Monae, it seems like a sin to keep a voice like this away from the world. (I'm a bit biased in this regard because I have much more use for a singer in my life than a dancer or a model.) She's developed a strong following in recent years and those fans raised $15,000 through Indiegogo for this project, which is compelling for a number of reasons. First of all, it's similar to the digital video revolution in the film industry in that artists can achieve their goals for far less money than traditional approaches. It's fairly amazing that $15,000 from a group of dedicated fans can ultimately result in an album this polished and classy. Second, this strategy forms a stronger bond between performer and audience. There are less people in the middle grabbing a piece of the pie.

It all comes back to the real treasure here, which is Jackson's smooth and relaxed voice, both lighthearted and vulnerable, the type of voice that makes you feel lucky to be in its presence. There's a precision in the way she ends each phrase, the care in which she delivers that last consonant with just the right amount of texture. Every word means something to her, and you should pay attention so you can catch her drift, so to speak. Lucia Jackson is the type of female singer who makes me want to forget every snarky comment I've made about the flood of female voice recordings out there. She makes me forget, in fact, why I had any complaints in the first place. Highly recommended.

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