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BWW CD Review: Anais Reno LOVESOME THING Is Something To Love

The debut album of the respected jazz singer will increase her fanbase in ways unimaginable.

BWW CD Review: Anais Reno LOVESOME THING Is Something To Love

I was eight years old and lying on the floor of the den, coloring in my coloring book. Over in the corner, the console television set was on and I could hear the program that was playing, but I wasn't paying attention - until I heard the voice. I looked up from my artwork and in the direction of the gigantic piece of furniture from whence cometh the voice to see a commercial for a movie that was showing later that night. A magnetic lady with a big hat (was it a hat or was it her hair? I couldn't tell) was standing on a boat with a bouquet of flowers, singing for all her life was worth. I didn't know who she was but I was determined to see that movie that night.

That was the first time I ever heard Barbra Streisand sing.

Similarly, I can recount the tales of my introductions to Nancy Wilson, Liza Minnelli, Carmen McRae, Karen Mason, and Nancy LaMott. They are some of my special ladies. The music that matters to us and the singers who sing it always have a place in our memories - that is the power of the medium, of the art form with so strong a hold on our hearts.

Twenty years from now, I will be telling people about the first time I ever heard Anais Reno.

Ms. Reno's debut album LOVESOME THING is a collection of songs by Duke Ellington and Billy Strayhorn designed to pay tribute to two artists she holds in the highest esteem. And while Reno's memorial mission is successful, it is not strong enough to take the focus off of the real reason to own the album: her. A long time has passed since a premiere recording by a new artist has carried the artistic merit and musical revelation provided by Anais and her band, led by internationally acclaimed pianist Emmet Cohen. Reno and co. waste no time in capturing the attention and imagination of the listener: right out of the gate, a racing heartbeat of percussion floats Reno's "Caravan" vocalise into the ears, deep, rich, resonant, drawing one into a progressively assertive jazz arrangement that showcases, first, Tivon Pennicott's saxophone, then gives way to Cohen's keyboard and Kyle Poole's drumsticks in a frenetic celebration of life, music, Ellington, and Reno. The tone has been set. The album is good. Settle back and let the rest of the journey wash over you, relax into it, swim in it until your fingers are pruny.

This isn't a party of four, for Anais Reno's instincts led to the inclusion on the album of some hot string action, courtesy of violinist Juliet Kurtzman on a spine-melting "Mood Indigo" and Russell Hall, whose bass sets a spectacular tone for "I'm Just a Lucky So And So". Those instincts inform every aspect of Lovesome Thing, from the trajectory of the set list to her own intricate vocal performances on songs providing a variety of moods, from bright and buoyant to deliciously dejected - and Reno connects with every composition like an electrical ground. It is clear that, while Cohen musically directed the project, Anais centered every artist involved, like a musical hub from which stems everyone's vision. That may sound like a quality found in every recording but anyone who has ever heard an album that got away from a singer will understand the importance of an artist whose name is on the cover lighting the way for all the others involved. Lovesome Thing has absolute consistency and faithful integrity, and that only comes when the singer and their crystal clear vision inspires their colleagues to devotion and dedication. That's where the good stuff comes from, and Lovesome Thing is all of the good stuff.

Twelve tracks make up the album Lovesome Thing, tracks so sumptuous and sophisticated that, were they a meal, they would be served up in twelve courses in a scene from the next Downton Abbey movie, and while the artistry of insanely gifted musicians, and the arrangements by Cohen and Reno are essential ingredients in the recipe, it is Reno herself who enriches the album to such measure. This is a once in a lifetime voice, so rare, so exquisite, with a depth that goes beyond the musicality bestowed upon a singer who won the genetic lottery to perfectly balanced performance instinct and technique - it's the holy trinity that creates a singer who is able to do the kind of things Anais does on this album. Observe the laid-back cockiness of an exemplary "I Ain't Got Nothin' But The Blues" and then compare it to the reserved sorrow expressed in "It's Kind of Lonesome Out Tonight", as Anais holds back, holds back, holds back, allowing the emotion out with one big melodic sigh, before reigning it back into a place of abject solitude. From that opening "Caravan" percussion to the final notes of "You Must Take The A Train" the album is one example after another of variety in artistry, and with Reno in the driver's seat, the needle swings with fluidity to and fro on the spectrum of emotional and musical possibilities. It's an embarrassment of riches.

That's something you can't help but remember in the years to come.

Lovesome Thing Anais Reno Sings Ellington & Strayhorn is a 2021 release on Harbinger Records. It is available on Amazon, iTunes, ArkivMusic and Naxos Direct.

Visit the Anais Reno website HERE.

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