Saturday, May 26, 2012

Cynthia Felton Freedom Dance 2012


Cynthia Felton's Freedom Jazz Dance is an incredibly unique look at the voice of a searching artist. Felton clearly appreciates the roots of the art form she holds dear but both the technical ability and artistic soul to embrace jazz, blues and gospel into a uniquely personal statement which is rare in the more self indulgent commercially oriented world that is the music business. Let us not forget it is called the music business for a reason.

During Felton's formative years of training she was encouraged to open herself up to each artist and not to worry about genre or industry attached label. The end result of this sage wisdom is a release that I like to refer to as one that drives critics nuts and places industry executives on the nearest ledge as Felton's immense talent gracefully sidesteps standard categorization with the end result as an organic presentation of the soul. While blessed with a four octave range, Felton is schooled in the fine art of less is more. The zen like artistry of Felton knowing just what buttons to push and when to push them is a gift. Rarely taught, rather felt from a place well past the art and perhaps somewhere close to the soul. The original soul music.

If you are a card carrying member of the pseudo intellectual jazz elite then perhaps you will be interested in the guest artist list which includes Cyrus Chestnut, Terri Lyne Carrington, and Ernie Watts. While an album of Felton's favorite standards to sing Freedom Jazz Dance is far more than a superficial release full of popular standards in an attempt for an easy payday. "Take Five" takes flight with Felton's ability to scat coupled with stellar solo work from the great Ernie Watts. "My Funny  Valentine" which may be the finest Rodgers and Hart tune features Wallace Roney on trumpet and a tenderness of vocal technique that finds a happy place between the more traditional jazz interpretation and a slight blues infusion adding an incredible texture to a time tested classic. Robert Hurst borders on the modern modern or contemporary classical with his lyrical bass solo.  In the liner notes Felton quotes Oscar Brown as stating "Music is a moving force, a gathering force that can bring people together despite cultural and geographical differences. Jazz is high art" Felton impeccable vocals are bordering on breathtaking with immaculate phrasing, tone and an interpretive expression that is something innate to the singer. This is a gift one is born with and then must be carefully nurtured. The Michel Legrand tune "What Are You Doing The Rest Of Your Life" is delivered with the flawless precision of a vocal surgeon. A little discussed aspect of Felton's talent is she can swing with the very best. The total package as a jazz vocalist? As close to perfection as one can get with a virtually flawless release. 

5 Stars!

Tracks: Oh Freedom; Take 5; My Funny Valentine; Better Than Anything; My Love Is; Duke Ellington's Sound Of Love; Close Your Eyes; Nature Boy; Lost In The Stars; Cherokee; What Are You Doing With The Rest Of Your Life? Freedom Jazz Dance.

Personnel: Cynthia Felton: vocals; John Beasley: piano ( 2,6,9,10,11,12); Donald Brown: (3); Cyrus Chestnut: piano (4,7); Patrice Rushen (8); Edwin Livingston: bass (2,6,9,10,11); Robert Hurst: bass (3,4,7); John B. Williams: bass (5); Tony Dumas: bass (8); Ryan Cross: bass (12); Lorca Hart: drums (2,5,6,9,10,11,12); Yoron Israel: drums (3,4,7); Teri Lyne Carrington: drums (8); Ronald Muldrow: guitar (3,7); Ernie Watts: tenor (2); Wallace Roney: trumpet (3); Nolan Shaheed trumpet (4,10); Derf Reklaw: percussion (2,4); Munyoungo Jackson: percussion (5,8); Carol Robbins: harp (9).