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Reviewers: Don Mather, Dick Stafford, Marc Bridle, John Eyles, Ian Lace, Colin Clarke






Nnenna Freelon: vocals
Gerry Niewood: flute, alto flute, soprano & tenor saxophones
Ronnie Buttacavoli: trumpet
Brandon McCune: piano, Hammond B-3 organ, Fender Rhodes piano
Dave Samuels: vibraphone, marimba
Chuck Loeb: electric & acoustic guitars
Woody Williams: drums
Bashiri Johnson: percussion
Enrico Granafei: harmonica
Jason Crosby: violin
Andy Stein: violin

Recorded January 2002 NYC

1. Overjoyed
2. Creepin'
3. Lately
4. Superstition
5. The Tears Of A Clown
6. Black Orchid
7. My Cherie Amour
8. Bird Of Beauty
9. All In Love Is Fair
10. Send One Your Love
11. Another Star
12. Until You Come Back To Me

Nnenna Freelon is one of the rising stars amongst jazz vocalists ( although she is now in her tenth year as a recording artist ) and is beginning to feature more and more in various polls (she was recently given quite a high ranking in the Downbeat Critics Poll ). This disc is the follow-up to her Grammy nominated "Soulcall." As the title suggests it is a concept album drawing from the compositions of Stevie Wonder. The numbers selected are an interesting blend of well and lesser-known. With a writer of the calibre of Wonder there is no difference in quality, it is just a case of personal preference.

For this session a most sympathetic group of musicians has been assembled and the arrangements are carefully tailored to suit Miss Freelon's voice and style of delivery. Her diction is very clear, which is a real advantage when interpreting songs with such beautiful and significant lyrics. Her tone is quite rounded but has a slight edge to it which distinguishes it from many other contemporary vocalists. Nnenna colours the lines but does not go for the excesses of some Jazz and Soul singers and, in my opinion, she keeps the scatting to a welcome minimum.

There are some outstanding performances from the accompanying players, both solo and ensemble. Garry Niewood plays tellingly on his arsenal of instruments, of particular note are his tenor solo on "Lately" and his flute excursion on "Another Star". Jason Crosby plays a fitting part on the violin on the wonderfully understated version of "Tears Of A Clown", and there is a controlled harmonica solo from Enrico Granafei on "Send One Your Love".
On listening to this disc it struck me that the music of Stevie Wonder is the present day equivalent of the standard tune as written by Gershwin, Porter, Berlin, Ellington, Rodgers etc. Unlike so many contemporary songs, they are open to different interpretations and do not fail if performed by someone other than the composer. At least two of the selections here I first heard played by artists other than Wonder ( "Tears Of A Clown" and "Until You Come Back To Me "). There are many more fine versions by Jazz musicians of the works of Stevie Wonder including a superb album by the saxophonist Stanley Turrentine entitled "Wonderland". Nnenna Freelon's record is a worthy addition to this body of work.

Dick Stafford





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