Vanessa Collier – Heart Soul & Saxophone | Album Review

vanessacolliercdVanessa Collier – Heart Soul & Saxophone

Self-Release 2014

9 tracks; 42 minutes

Vanessa Collier is a young graduate of the Berklee College of Music in Boston and this is her debut recording.  After graduation Vanessa toured with Joe Louis Walker and some of Joe’s eclecticism has rubbed off on her as this CD covers quite a range of styles.  Her band is also made up of several former Berklee students and features Eric Finland on keys and backing vocals, Jordan Rose on drums, Justin Schornstein on bass, No Socha on guitar and harmonica and Doug Hinrichs on percussion.  Vanessa takes the lead vocals and plays alto and soprano saxes and also produced the album.  The material consists of five of Vanessa’s compositions and four covers.

The album opens with a disconcerting blast of 70’s style synthesizer which leads into “The Run Around” with plenty of aggressive drums, slide and, towards the end, some alto sax from Vanessa who sings well on this opener.  The second track “Tongue Tied” follows a similar style with funky bass leading the way before “So What” moves into the smooth jazz area with plenty of shimmering electric piano and some ethereal vocals from Vanessa and a nice soprano solo feature.  “I Can’t Stand The Rain” is an oft-covered song and to make an impression a new cover needs something distinctive but unfortunately this version is played at a plodding pace though Vanessa sings it quite well.

The original “Bad News Bears” was commended in a songwriting competition and is dedicated to a fellow sax player Max Cowan who passed away at a very early age.  Starting with some trashcan drums, harp and piano this one has something of a jump blues style and is the closest to blues so far on the album. Billie Holiday’s “God Bless The Child” has been covered many times and, again, Vanessa sings it fine but this version really adds nothing special.  The featured soloist is Noé on harp though Vanessa adds some short sax notes to the uptempo coda.  “Keep It Saxy” is an instrumental that is beautifully played in a cool jazz style which acts as the filler between two covers from more contemporary sources: Tedeschi Trucks’ “Learn How To Love” receives a fairly straight makeover, a good song which Vanessa sings well, her strident sax replacing Derek’s slide as the featured solo instrument; the album closes with James Morrison’s ballad “Right By Your Side” which is just Vanessa and a piano accompaniment.

It is great to find a young musician as multi-talented as Vanessa who can sing, play and write.  However, this album only really intersects with the blues on a few occasions.

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