You read it here first.Vocalist Emily Braden’s debut studio album, Soul Walk, co-written, arranged, and produced by New York pianist/composer/producer Misha Piatigorsky, is such a resounding artistic success that it has the potential to launch Braden into the first rank of contemporary jazz vocalists.
Recorded last year in New York and full of that city’s musical energy, Soul Walk announces Braden as one of the most exciting female jazz vocalists to emerge in years. That’s no surprise to Victoria audiences, of course, where the 27 year-old, originally from Boise, Idaho, has lived, studied and performed for the last eight years, but it will be news to those jazz fans who will be hearing her for the first time once this album gets the exposure it deserves.
It also confirms yet again that Piatigorsky, who spends his summers in Victoria (his wife is from here) performing and teaching jazz at the Victoria Conservatory of Music, is a truly gifted composer, arranger and producer (besides being an in-demand New York pianist). His evocative, shape-shifting arrangements and inspired use of instrumentation augment and strengthen the pure excitement and energy Braden generates with her soulful, versatile voice on the six original tunes and six covers that comprise this landmark recording.
It’s hard to pick an all-out winner here, since all the tunes, from the high-energy, get-up-and-move Testify that kicks things off to the sweet and tender rendering of the Herb Ellis ballad Detour Ahead that completes the album, are beautifully realized, each contributing to a dazzling palate of sonic colour that showcases the versatility of Braden’s voice and Piatigorsky’s unbounded musical imagination. But two original tunes, Wallflower’s Fantasy and Georgia O’Keefe, are particular standouts for their lyric and sonic artistry. Think of the best of Joni Mitchell (at her jazziest) and Herbie Hancock (at his most innovative) and you have a sense of the quality we’re talking about here.
If this album isn’t picked up by a major record label in the US and Canada, I’ll eat my hat – no, make that my entire record collection.
You can hear two tunes from the album at Braden’s MySpace page here:
– Rick Gibbs
Stay tuned for more on Emily Braden. I’ll soon be running an interview with her as I preview her upcoming gigs in Victoria and on Hornby Island. This week she’s off to Boise for a CD launch in her hometown. The album, by the way, will soon be available on line through iTunes.
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