Carmen Lundy Quartet, Pizza Express Jazz Club, London
By Mike Hobart
The singer was a commanding presence, her words tumbling, soaring and stretching.
US vocalist Carmen Lundy delivers storytelling lyrics with jazz technique and a fusion vibe.
She released her first album Good Morning Kiss in 1985, and is currently showcasing
original songs from Soul to Soul, her 14th album.
Lundy’s lyrics are personal statements of philosophy and pain, with observations on
relationships and others’ misfortunes. Each verse is dense with rhyme, and each technically
demanding line paints a picture. Words tumble like scat and soar between registers while
syllables, stretched almost to breaking point, gain a hint of vibrato before ending powerfully
with precision. As a balance, Lundy’s songs have hooks as strong as their titles and at this gig a
trio led by keyboardist Patrice Rushen provided foundation.
Rushen, a draw in her own right, was equally adept on grand
piano and sample-heavy synth. On the life-affirming “Life Is a Song in Me”, smoky swirls were
followed by the percussive whipcrack of Fender Rhodes piano. Next, the album’s title track
hummed with modal jazz and later “Daybreak” was introduced with rippling showtune grand
before the song broke into a gospel-infused waltz. In support, bassist Darryl Hall walked firmly
and was solid on bass guitar, while drummer Jamison Ross moved effortlessly from funk to
swing and from Latin jazz to township lilt.
Lundy, though, was the focus, from the moment she squeezed through a packed first house
while her band fuelled expectation with funky riffs and a snapping backbeat. She was in
command from the moment she grabbed the mic and launched the triumph-in-adversity lyrics
of “Kindred Spirits”, her album’s lead track.
She soared into the upper register on “Soul to Soul” and plummeted into the lower depths for
observations on drug addiction on “When Will They Learn”. For a full set, she crooned and
riffed, moaned with the blues and traded phrases with her band.
Taut with concentration while performing, she was effusive and relaxed while introducing each
song. At one point, she told us she first played London in 1991. “I was there,” shouted a voice
from the front. For a moment Lundy seemed slightly fazed, and then she once more took
control, her face wreathed in a smile.