Maybe it’s an extra bit of edginess to season All Is Well (Laborie Jazz ***) that Lisa Simone’s latest album could do with.
Not that it needs much. Performing with a small band – guitarist Hervé Samb, bassist Reggie Washington, and drummer Sonny Troupé on this studio album recorded in France – Nina Simone’s daughter, a former Broadway musical theatre performer, isn’t averse at delivering a little homily to begin the album before entering a prayerful space powerfully enough on her own song ‘Finally Free,’ which she has also written lyrics to. Hers is a technically strong voice, with plenty of power to it, and Simone can sell a song like the best musical theatre performers. However, the approach is a step away from one or two key elements of jazz singing in terms of light and shade not that that I’m sure matters to most listeners yet it’s worth pointing out especially when the material becomes a little poppier, for instance on the title track ‘All is Well’, that her appeal is not necessarily just suited to such a specialist audience as a jazz one.
Guitarist Samb sets up a careful introduction to the revealingly autobiographical ‘Child in Me,’ a song about Lisa’s relationship as a child with her mother and her sadness when Nina would leave for her work and activism. Samb contributes the music to ‘Revolution’ the next song, Simone handling the spoken word element of it well and then adding huge power. Her lilting cover of Leonard Cohen’s ‘Suzanne’ didn’t do much for me, the album only entering deeper waters on the absorbing song ‘The Hardest Part,’ probably the most jazz-friendly part of the album up to that point. Her mother’s ‘Ain’t Got No I Got Life’, which appeared on 1968’s Nuff Said, is carefully delivered, and the version of Chris Rodriguez’s ‘Take it to The Father’ has a lot of spirit to it. Samb’s ‘Lullaby’ is pretty, and a well-judged version of ‘Autumn Leaves’ wraps up the album strongly, the words sung both in English and French. SG
Simone launches All is Well, which has just been released, in the UK at London venue Kings Place at a concert on 8 December. ‘Revolution’, the fifth track from the album, is above