The debut release of Cristina Morrison will take a great many off guard and put equally as many people on notice as one of the most distinctively original vocal artists to crash the party emerges in years. Morrison's music is a very personal hybrid that merges jazz, blues, folk and pop sensibilities. The glue holding this hybrid together would be the samba, bossa nova and other South American or Latin influences in an intoxicating mélange of sonic bliss resulting from her mixed parentage of American and Ecuadorian roots coupled with a unique artistic world view having resided in Rome, Quito, the Galapagos Islands, Los Angeles and now New York City - the mecca for all things jazz.
A first call selection of some of the Big Apple's finest push Morrison to discover her own keen sense of melodic feel and develop the true potential of her own engaging lyrics which while deceptively subtle are at times rather cinematic in scope. I Love is a pristine recording designed to touch the listener both the visceral and cerebral levels and this may be where the true success and individuality of the artist are born.
The release opens with a flair for the dramatic and the looping stand up bass introducing the harmonic exploratory of the muted trumpet of Walter Szymanski and pianist Steve Einerson. A beat nick syncopated eloquence quickly adds a textured swing to a soulful if not autobiographical look at life in the Big Apple. "Summer In New York" is the vocal jazz version of the little black dress for most women. A requirement for the wardrobe that is a little dangerous but with the right mind set is pulled off with attitude and generates a mysterious allure thus setting the table for the rest of the release. Taking a crack at a standard such as "What A Difference A Day Makes" is the musical equivalent of tap dancing in a sonic mine field yet Morrison pulls this off with the ease and grace of a seasoned veteran. Instead of a version destined for happy hour at the local Marriott, Morrison does a more Latin influenced organic riff with a slightly slower tempo offset by the authenticity of Sammy Torrers' bongo. "East of the Sun" is another deceptively predictable yet lyrically enchanting bossa rhythm that Cristina showcases Morrison's versatility of a syncopated sensuality without overplaying her sonic hand. The talented Szymanski again provides ample assistance to the lyrical sense of purpose that pushes Morrison's version to an organic ease of enjoyment without retooling a classic tune into a karaoke nightmare. Morrison closes with Billie Holiday's "Fine and Mellow." A tight but lyrical walking bass line penetrates the musical soul as an innate blues infused expression of lost love flows from Morrison with style and flair rarely seen on the more commercial circuit today. Szymanski fills in the space with the smoke filled room sound only heard in the club shortly before "last call!" is announced and the evenings adventures shift to a new and more dangerous location where love and lust are trouble bought and paid for.
Debut releases from female singers are a dime a dozen and those adding original work are normally doing this at their own risk. The vocalist either sacrifices the lyrics to the detriment of the music or vice verse. Morriso is the real deal bringing together a nice package with musical chops to spare. An incredibly entertaining and adventurous tour de force that gives up a little something new with each subsequent spin of the disc. A real winner that leaves the listener longing for more!
Tracks: Summer In New York; Fifteen Day Affair; I Love; Stand Still; What A Difference A Day Makes; Red Mafia & Jass; East Of The Sun; Perfect Little Storms; Fine & Mellow; Bonus Video on CD: The Making Of I Love.
Personnel: Cristina Morrison: vocals & lyrics; Christian Hidrobo: composer, arranger, alto saxophone; Walter Szymanski: trumpet; Steve Einerson: piano; Marcus McLaurine: upright bass; Alex Alver: electric bass; Willard Dyson: drums; Gregoire Maret: harmonica; Sammy Torres: percussion; Vinny Valentino: guitar; Alex Harding: baritone saxophone.