It sometimes feels like that. Especially if you check the (North) American and international jazz press. How many U.S. jazz fans are aware of our great artists such as David Ades, Julien Wilson, Mike Nock or Bernie McGann?
And how many are aware of Japanese, Swedish or French jazz? There is some great stuff to be heard from all over the world; a friend recently put me onto an organ trio from Greece that was knockout!
Australian jazz singer Ingrid James’ recent release — Trajectoire —just might convince a few more that there is some good music to be had beyond West 44th Street (or 505 or Bennett’s Lane). Made with a mix of Australian, French, Danish and U.S. players, it is a revelation.
James is here paired with the Alexis Tcholakian Trio from France. In fact the album grew out of pianist Tcholakian’s request that she pen lyrics for a number of his compositions. Direct, and with just the right mix of experience, urbanity and poetry, her lyrics work so well it is hard to believe often that they didn’t come first, before the melodies.
Another nice balance across Trajectoire is that James has found the right point between the hip and the sweet. Too many recent jazz vocal albums seem to take the tame path, assumedly in the hope of wider audience — maybe on the fringe of Pop. This collection of songs retains some true grit and jazz light and shade, yet steers clear of the miasmic mists that afflict the jazz vocal recordings at the other end of the spectrum. There is a strong feeling of tradition — but respect for that tradition rather than either a dry clinging to it, or a sickly sugaring of it.
This balance is exemplified by the opening mission statement, a reading of Jimmy Rowles’ ‘A Timeless Place (The Peacocks)’ (lyric by Norma Winstone). James navigates this tricky winding melody with superbly simpatico piano from Tcholakian and his trio.
The arrangement is smartly considered, with the piano mirroring in unison some sections of the vocal. This device is used to great effect on many tracks, markedly on the two vocal solos written by Louise Denson — the first, a duet with Danish tenor sax player Simon Spang-Hanssen on the Hammond-driven ‘Blue Confluence’; the second on the Bill Evans-ish waltz of ‘Night Reflection’.
The latter duet is with Australia’s Miroslav Bukovsky whose flugelhorn’s round golden tone sounds uncannily like a human voice itself.
The snaky melody, latin groove and Marian Bitran’s flute of the title track, ‘Trajectoire’ recalls Chick Corea’s ’70s work with Flora Purim. The album pulls from many styles of jazz — ‘Midsummer Flower’ ‘s samba, the Rhodes-driven fusion of ‘Circle of Love’, the languid ballad of album closer ‘It’s Not Over’ — but there is a unity that holds it all together, a major factor being James’ warm and honeyed voice — like Dianne Reeves, a voice born for jazz.
Trajectoire is satisfying on all levels. I look forward to more from Ingrid James and Alexis Tcholakian.
Ingrid James (Australia — voice/lyrics)
Alexis Tcholakian (France — piano/compositions)
Simon Teboul (France — bass)
Thierry Tardieu (France — drums)
Simon Spang-Hanssen (Denmark — sax)
Mariane Bitran (France/Denmark — flute)
Guillaume Muschalle (France — guitar)
Miroslav Bukovsky (Australia — flugelhorn)
Todd Harrison (US — drums)