Carmen Lundy Soul To Soul Album Review - SoulTracks
By Howard Dukes, SoulTracks
Carmen Lundy does it the hard way. She’s a vocalist in a genre – jazz – that is largely the purview by instrumentalists. Lundy also made her musical mark through the method that she employs on her latest recording Soul To Soul – by writing her own material in a field where some singers still feel the need to respond to the call of the Great American Songbook.
Lundy, who is a multi-instrumentalist, actress, and visual artist as well as a vocalist, composed and arranged 11 of the 13 tracks on Soul To Soul by playing and recording all of the instrumental parts. She also played guitar on all the tracks on Soul To Soul and also played the piano and Rhodes on many of them, despite recruiting some pretty impressive keyboard talent in Patrice Rushen and Geri Allen.
Vocally, Lundy is an artist who combines classical music flourishes to her jazz vocals that are also steeped in gospel and the blues. Those classical chops can be heard her perfect enunciation and in the high notes she hits on tracks such as the opening track “Kindred Spirits.”
Lundy shows a high comfort level in basking in the blues, as her rendition of Mary Lou Williams’ “What’s Your Story Morning Glory” shows. Lundy sings the torch song backed by a piano, and the arrangement gives space for the vocalist to add intimacy and immediacy to this torch song while also giving the pianist space to improvise.
Still, the high point of Soul To Soul are the 11 originals. “When Will They Learn” is a mournful ballad to those lost in self destruction cycles. It’s easy to think that Lundy is aiming this tune at the young people because we all preach to the kids. However, the beauty of “When Will They Learn” is that so many groups can find themselves in the words of this song – if they had the self-awareness to look.
“Between Darkness and Dawn” is a request for a presence who stands ready to support but not exploit Lundy’s need to be held and comforted during the late night and early morning hours. This is the kind of jazz infected soul cut that might have found a place on soul radio stations back when those stations played fusion after dark. Lundy lends her operatic voice to this ode, becoming vulnerable and trusting a lover not to take advantage of that vulnerability.
Lundy has been a vocal presence in jazz since the late 1970s, which means she spent much of a career swimming upstream in a market where the high art style that she brings to her vocals has found few safe harbors. Lundy stayed true and created space not only for herself but also for a new generation of vocalists willing to put their own stamp on the art of jazz vocal singing, and on Soul To Soul Lundy proves that she’s not yet ready to cede the spotlight. It is a welcome return from a performer whose artistry is timeless. Solidly Recommended.
By Howard Dukes
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