Saturday, June 2, 2012

Rebecca Sullivan This Way, This Time Rhyme or Reason Records 2012

Release Date 06/12/12

A musical epiphany and a debut release are both very good things when it comes to vocalist Rebecca Sullivan. Tosss in a compelling back story and you have musical reality on steroids or could that be Sullivan's three octave range? This 29 year old vocal standout discovered her love for jazz in of all places - Russia!

When the Cold War was but a distant memory, Sullivan found herself spending a semester abroad studying Russian Literature in St. Petersburg. Jazz clubs in St. Petersburg are plentiful and without those pesky age restrictions of alcohol serving American clubs, Sullivan began to drink from the cultural well from which her artistry would soon blossom. While a Bob Dylan fan, Sullivan began to enrich her vocal vocabulary with the works of Billie Holiday, Dinah Washington and Carmen McRae and soon she began to study jazz as a vocalist and her own cultural path began to take shape which leads up to her debut release.

This Way, This Time is an organic showcase for a brilliant vocalist with the ability to separate herself from those content merely to crank out the same predictable standards with all most identical arrangements. As a critic I often compare my efforts to that of a sonic prospector. I sift through the sonic sand and silt of the mediocre to slightly better than average singer destined to go no further than perhaps the lounge at the local Marriott only to have the U.S. Postal Service present me with the proverbial gold nugget.

Words such as intimate, organic and unpretentious are often over used but apply in perfect context with this stellar release. A sonic pulse carefully crafted around some more eclectic work from Johnny Mandel to an inventive reharmonization of the Beach Boys classic "Wouldn't It Be Nice." With the help of guitarist Mike Allemana who is a most gifted player in his own right, Sullivan's interpretations and sonic exploratory transcend genre and are the perfect blend of a very personal yet vivid sonic color palette when combined with Allemana. One of the most striking abilities of Sullivan is to not do a complete reharmonization to the point of mangling a melody, she carefully dissects the lyrics into a personal interpretation making the old turn new and the new become adventurous yet without the self indulgent pitfalls that younger artists in similar situations often find themselves. I call these career killers.

Sullivan's pristine vocals open the release with an original composition that being the title track "This Way, This Time." Sullivan can turn on a note, playing catch and release for dramatic effect in an intimate setting which is similar to innate gift of swing some bop players are simply born with. How does one teach expressive soul? Clearly Sullivan is incredibly comfortable in a setting that leaves no margin for error and no room to hide. Vocals and guitar are a format not conducive to merely "fix it in the mix." The Beach Boys classic "Wouldn't It Be Nice" is a personal favorite and while there was a natural concern over the transition to a tune with more jazz sensibilities, to do this the tempo is amped up slightly with deceptively subtle syncopation that is done with such precision that her contemporaries with twice the experience may not be able to pull off as well. A more free form and open approach allows her three octave range full range of expression despite her modest remark of only using slightly over two octaves is simply stunning. A sonic exploratory of shifting harmonics and the open soul of a searching artist allow this recording to border on the addictive. "Some Kind Of Love" is another Sullivan original and proves her formidable skills as a lyricist and confirmation that the one trick pony status of the average singer does not apply here.

Innovative, fresh and a captivating subtlety in the inherent complexity of some of the arrangements places Sullivan as a name to remember and certainly a name to watch out for! After reviewing close to 50 female vocalists this year with the majority "better than average" we now have Rebecca Sullivan as one of brightest stars on the vocal jazz horizon. The Sullivan originals are perfectly placed and demonstrate a strong and confident artists while the eclectic mix of seldom heard standards makes This Way, This Time morph into a sonic soul cleansing release that can hit you from both the visceral and cerebral at the same time.

For a debut release this is stunning work. A gifted vocalist whose stock is an arrow pointing straight up!
5 Huge Stars!

Tracks: This Way, This Time; The Shining Sea; She Moved Through The Fair; Wouldn't It Be Nice; Some Kind Of Love; Blossom Friend; Human Racing; Strange Enchantment; Ivy; You Are There.

Personnel: Rebecca Sullivan: vocals; Mike Allemana: guitar, looper.

A taste of "Some Kind Of Love" from You Tube!