Lenora Zenzalai Helm: Precipice (2002)
A total appreciation of the jazz vocal idiom can prove to be a tricky endeavor in terms of finding vocalists who walk the fine line of expressing their own voice, while also carrying the canonized torch of greats such as Ella Fitzgerald and Billy Holiday. Whether driven by nostalgia, technique, or artistic vision; jazz vocalists face the challenge of self-identification, just as any other musician in the genre.
Helm definitely has her own voice and Precipice is a fine highlight for observation of her unique interpretations. The musical “modus operandi’ in Precipice is swing; and the band definitely delivers the goods. With the “dynamic duo” of rhythm: Waits and Mateen, who are both protégés of Greg Osby and Jason Moran, the music is as tight as it is fluid. Stanley Cowell, who recently collaborated with Jane Bunnell and Dewy Redman on the stellar recording Spirituals & Dedications is an excellent counterpart for Helm’s creativity and voice. Duane Eubanks offers his skill on two of the selections, with strong trumpet work. Whether covering the timeless masterpiece “Cheek to Cheek” by Irvin Berlin, or showcasing her skills on the modernistic title composition “Precipice”; Helm brings a freshness to the recording in terms of harmony, improvisation, tone, and delivery. Helm shows her deep range on the complex selection ‘Autumns’ and her astral reading of Duke Ellington’s “T.G..T.T.” This is not your standard pop-diva doing the jazz thing. This is a true reflection of a modern jazz vocalist.
For artist information and samples:
Track Listing: 1. Falling Down 2. Every Time We Say Goodbye 3. Wise One/Precipice 4. But Not For Me 5. Three Little Words 6. Out of Ashes 7. Highwire 8. Says My Heart 9. Just Go 10. T.G.T.T. 11. Cheek To Cheek 12. Autumns
Personnel: Lenora Zenzalai Helm - vocals; Stanley Cowell - piano; Tarus Mateen - acoustic bass; Nasheet Waits - drums; Duane Eubanks - trumpet
Record Label: Baoule Music