Vocalist Jeri Brown is of the ilk of daring performer and artist not seen in jazz since Nina Simone, and her discipline is such that it crosses all borders…even unto opera. Yep, I said it, and it's true. The opening cut to the CD, Nothing Here but You, is resplendent with the ancient art's austerely beautiful refrains and commanding presence. This is followed with a rendition of the great Leon Thomas' Echoes, for which the CD is named, here with Mon David doubling up behind her. David in fact appears on most of the disc and provides vivid harmony and contrast everywhere, almost as audacious as Brown herself…but not quite. No one's like this woman.
It's been a helluva long time since we've run across pure creativity of this scatting, improv'ing, mutational nature, and I'm quite sure it will be just as long before we see another example. This is rare stuff—frankly, you'd have to travel back to the esteemed Leon, the all-time best such abstract encanter, to locate its kindred—and it is not to be ignored. Brown takes Bacharach's Look of Love and tears it to shreds before lovingly re-assembling the song into a vastly more torrid version than anyone before her has attempted, verging on what Maria Callas or the more experimental Kiri Te Kanawa might have done were they able, which they're not (but if you're unfamiliar with Kiri's work re: My Fair Lady, the Gershwins, and etc., then you're in for a treat), before leaping off the cliff and flying like a be-bopping swan heading for paradise.
I'm dead serious here. This is a VERY unusual album. It will stir emotions you thought long dead, re-create aspects of jazz left in a dark corner, mate up with classicalism in a fashion that will puzzle and fascinate even hard-core purists, and then stun the unwary…but guess what? Once you're done happily scraping your brains back off the wall after the CD winds down, you get to then watch the live session on DVD. This is bliss that should be forbidden human beings, but what the hell? Christmas is on its way, so it's time to start treating yourself. Needless to say, Echoes will appear on my 2013 year-end Best Of list (I love the year's end because, though killer material appears year-round, it really bulks up in Oct., Nov., and Dec.), but dig this: Jeri's already released 9 solo CDs. Good God, someone get the smelling salts, I don't think I can take that much heaven!
I very strongly recommend you watch the DVD as well because it adds an electric dimension that, even as fierce as the CD is, is nonetheless missing. That, after all, is why we attend concerts, isnt' it? When the performers are really into it, their body English and interplay are just as contributory to the entire experience, and that's certainly the case here, adding a LOT, trust me. Mon David is an impossibly hip Frank Sinatra, and Jeri's the Nina Frankie might well have learned much from, had he only listened and been serious. You also get the bonus of interview snippets, in-concert comments, and can watch a band I've criminally undercovered here. They're damn good, and I'd go on further about 'em, but, well, Oscar Brown's Afro Blue is coming up, and I'm heading back to the TV.
Oh, and would it be chauvinistic to mention that Jeri's a barefoot cutie too? It would be??? Okay, then I'm a chauvinist…but I'm also right. Live with it.
Edited by: David N. Pyles
Copyright 2013, Peterborough Folk Music Society.
This review may be reprinted with prior permission and attribution.
Website design by David N. Pyles