I receive quite a few vocal jazz CDs, sometimes more than I care to review, but Nicki Schrire's work is extremely interesting in a fashion I still can't quite put my finger on. Last year's Freedom Flight (here) was a feast and inspiration, but this year's Space and Time finds her in a much different place, albeit with tons of references back to Freedom. The reason for the timbral and atmospheric shift is immediately noticeable: every song is a duet between her and three rotating pianists, and each song is a delicate filigree, fragile and beautiful, sensitive and honest, wistful and quite affecting.
Schrire does things with every word and note, a craftsmanship (craftswomanship?) that requires intent, indeed rapt, listening. She's put a hell of a lot of thought into every stave and measure, emerging with a dozen gems lifted from the Great American Songbook, from pop annals, and through her own quill, compositions that become either classically inflected or segments in an intense thoughtful stage theatre. But there's one more aspect, the elusive twist, that outré element I've been trying to winnow out: her unorthodox arranging capability. She doesn't quite re-write others' songs but comes damn close to it while preserving every ingredient in the original versions…but mutated, their DNA rearranged, the next-generation children of themselves.
A number of the more and most intelligent female vocalists come to mind—Mia Doi Todd, Tori Amos, Kimiko Itoh, Lorraine Feather, Norma Winstone, Joan Baez, Joni Mitchell, etc.—in Schrire's work. She works diligently on, in her own words, "intimacy and purity of communication", achieving both superlatively, but also attaining to a rare purity and emotional impact. I Wish You Love shows all these factors in one airy nakedly open package, a combination of innocence and longing, and her boppy Swingley take on George Harrison's Here Comes the Sun is first a serial minimal wonder with Windham Hill elegance and then a folky charmer treading back to Village Vanguard days wherein quickly shifting beatniks were first grappling with rock and roll while hanging on tightly to jazz. Yep, this is that kind of gig, but, as inferred, with very few exemplars preceding it.
Edited by: David N. Pyles
Copyright 2013, Peterborough Folk Music Society.
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