A throwback soul singer with incredible jazz sensibilities and impeccable phrasing. Sandra Nkake' is indeed an important part of where modern vocal jazz seems to be heading. For those of you unfamiliar with Nkake' the most logical question is who does she sound like? Musical frames of reference are at times dangerous in the hands of an amateur but think Tracy Chapman meet Meshell Ndegeocello. A organic soul that paints vocal pictures from a rich and varied sonic color pallet.
Nothing For Granted is a dynamic release. The marriage of a vocal old soul with more a modern jazz direction has the end result as a vibrant journey of a somewhat autobiographical song cycle with a strong lyrical sense of direction. In fact jazz should be considered as more of an umbrella genre with respect to Nothing For Granted. Nkake's talent sidesteps a definitive label with ease and easily turns Nothing For Granted into some critics worst nightmare. Some "bag em and tag em" critics are far more concerned with the genre then they are the music and the striking aspect of Nothing For Granted being these tunes are all written and produced by Nkake' and long time friend Ji Dru.
Opening with "Always The Same" there is a buoyant soul vibe and intoxicating hooks from the harmonic exploratory maintained while a subtle groove and lyrical sense of purpose allow this tune to develop freely and without constraint. "Same Reality" is an expressive and incredibly strong ballad which again allows Nkake's phrasing to shine and her vocals seal the deal with a slight smokey finish adding great texture and character to one of her finest compositions. "Like A Buffalo" may be one of the more emotionally charged tunes but here she demonstrates a social conscious without the need of grinding some sort of political axe thus taking away from the overall impact of the song. "Rock It Better" is a reggae infused gem which adds to the ebb and flow of this eclectic vocal autobiography of a stellar talent that we should certainly hear more from in the future.
Having reviewed more female vocalists then I care to recall with each doing their own riff on the same tired jazz standards, Nkake' is a breath of fresh air. Nothing For Granted indeed makes old school new cool which highlights an emerging singer/songwriter whose musical stock should be an arrow pointing straight up. Nothing For Granted certainly goes in the memorable pile for 2012 along with 5 Stars. Sandra Nkake' is indeed the real deal.
Tracks: Always The Same; Same Reality; Like A Buffalo; Show Me The Way; Toc Toc Toc; Conversation; Mankind; Nothing For Granted; Rock It Better; You'd Better Dance' Skeletone; No More Trouble; Unlucky Joe; Candy Says.
Personnel: Sandra Nkake': vocals, piano; Ji Dru: flute, piano, percussion; Julien Tekeyan: shaker; Christopher Minck: bass; Matthieu Ouaki: guitar; Antoine Berjeaut: trumpet.