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Soul To Soul Album Review - Downbeat

Downbeat, by Fred Bouchard

4 Stars

As Carmen Lundy mapped out the rough tracks on this powerful one-woman retrospective, she assumed each role: sang lead and backup, played every instrument and (co-)wrote almost every tune. She was scarcely freer parsing out her messages: limning autobiography, affectionate thanks, hard lessons learned, cautionary worldviews. Nonetheless, when she passed the “selfie” blueprints along to preferred session mates, they “got it,” both music and her reflective glances, laying most tracks in one take. The rhythm team—pianist Patrice Rushen, bassist Darryl Hall, drummer Jamison Ross, percussionist Mayra Casales—stays yielding and flexible through paces of soul (“Life Is A Song In Me”), samba (“Everything I Need”) and cool jazz (the title track and “Don’t You Know How I Feel?” with their Randy Brecker sizzle).

 

Strong tracks are the opener “Kindred Spirits,” childhood vignettes wrapped in warring voices, and the dazzling Afro-pop “Between Darkness And Dawn,” on which Lundy dramatically vacillates her timbre and range, torn in debate with herself. Shared moments of relieved joy in “Daybreak,” “Grace” and “Everything I Need” are tempered with heartsick prayers for broken youth (“When Will They Learn?) and deep thanks (expressed in “Grateful,” in versions both resigned, with Warren Wolf’s leisurely vibes coda, and exultant, as Lundy scats and choruses with Bennie Maupin’s celebrant tenor saxophone). After shared golden moments on “Sardegna,” Lundy’s valedictory duo with Geri Allen gently salutes hard-working pioneer bandleader Mary Lou Williams, thus directly achieving soul communion on yet another level. —Fred Bouchard

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