Saturday, December 7, 2013

Nancy Harms Dreams In Apartments GNH 2013


Nancy Harms takes a giant leap forward with the stellar outing Dreams In Apartments!
Brent Black / www.criticaljazz.com

Don't be fooled as Dreams In Apartments is not nearly as solid a recording as you have heard...it is way better! The female jazz vocal sorority is an overly crowded field consisting primarily of pretty girls whose talents are best left to cruise ships and karaoke night at the local Marriott. Nancy Harms is that rare talent with the innate gift to not just sing a song but instead embrace a lyric and by doing so she reaches that magic moment of connectivity that can transport the listener to a time and place that may not ever reach in their daily life. A perfectly balanced recording.

One can wax poetic on timing, intonation, pitch and a myriad of other technical aspects that Harms has down cold but in keeping with the intimacy of this stunning release, Nancy Harms is the jazz equivalent of that sexy little black dress with an utterly unique tone and a slight smoky finish. The ability to turn on a note with a deceptively subtle inflection has Nancy Harms making vocal jazz sexy again. Dreams in Apartments is an incredibly intimate and perhaps somewhat deconstructed riff on herself. Not overloaded with standards and not so pretentious that we find a plethora of original material but instead we find what this critic prefers to call old school made new cool by an artist obviously comfortable with who she is and where she is going. "It Could Happen To You" and "Mood Indigo" are two classics that have seen better days but each are reborn with stunning clarity and lyrical vision from an artist that seems to just be getting her feet wet having only been on the scene since 2010. The original tunes including "Weight of The World" and "Out of Comfort" have a more contemporary approach but maintain that Zen like presentation that runs throughout Dreams In Apartments.

Aaron Parks turns in solid performances on piano and moves well past the more traditional role of accompanist. Guitarist John Hart matches Parks throughout this effort and Danton Boller and RJ Miller round out a rock solid rhythm section. These are A list players that perform as one no matter the pairings on each track. Wycliffe Gordon makes a cameo on "And It's Beautiful." It is this true collaborative team effort that allows Dreams In Apartments to take on an organic heartbeat and revel in a special kind of intimacy rarely conceived in what one might consider a more traditionally flavored vocal jazz recording.

Absolutely nothing to grind on here, one of the two best vocal releases I have had the pleasure to review this year. A gem!
Tracks: Weight of The World; It Could Happen To You; Mood Indigo; And It's Beautiful; Never Let Me Go; From My First Moment; Out of Comfort; Something Real; Midnight Sun; While We're Young
 
Personnel: Nancy Harms: Vocals; Aaron Parks: Piano (except 5), Fender Rhodes (8), Organ (80; John Hart: Guitar (5,6,7,8,9); Danton Boller: Bass (except 2); RJ Miller: Drums (except 2).
Special Guest: Wycliffe Gordon: Trombone (4).