Tessa Souter: Obsession (Motema 233045)
Tessa Souter is originally from London but is now resident in New York, popping back over here from time to time for a few gigs (she was at Pizza Express in Dean Street, London, in July.
What is particularly intriguing about this latest disc is her choice of material – not the usual Great American Songbook stuff but instead a mix of rock and pop tunes, a Brazilian tune or two, some originals and some interesting vocal interpretations of songs we know well as instrumentals.
The former include natural choices like Paul McCartney’s Eleanor Rigby and Nick Drake’s Riverman, but what about Jack Bruce and Pete Brown’s Cream classic White Room for a curveball? It’s not an easy tune to get right melodically, and a reminder of just how original Bruce was, though of course for a jazz singer of Souter’s skill it sounds easier than it probably is.
The last named include, again, naturals like the Santamaria/Brown Jr favourite, Afro Blue, although Tessa mixes Wayne Shorter’s Footprints in with it and also does it at a great slow pace. But there are also fresh choices like Freddie Hubbard’s Little Sunflower, turned into Nara’s Song and Kenny Barron’s Sunshower turned into Crystal Rain, with original lyrics from the singer and Teri Roiger respectively. All are gorgeous.
Her interpretation of the Dori Caymmi/Tracy Mann/T. Gillette title track is rich and lovely, too.
Souter is a graceful singer with no obvious jazz cliches, and is clearly comfortable with all this material because she has probably grown up with it. The band is a fresh-sounding one, too, with acoustic guitar (special mention for Jason Ennis) as well as violin and some accordion. This gives it a wider scope more in keeping with world music than pushing it into the jazz closet. Souter’s own arrangements enhance this broader range still further. It all feels like an inspired path for a 21st-century jazz singer to take.
Get a taster of every track on the album here but pay special attention to White Room and Afro Blue.
Categories: CD review