Terri Lyne Carrington, 'The Mosaic Project: Love And Soul,' Concord Records (REVIEW)
Terri Lyne Carrington had a problem. How do you possibly follow up The Mosaic Project, the 2011 Grammy Award winner for "Best Jazz Vocal Album"? That CD featured the cream of the female instrumental and vocal crop. Her answer is to continue to utilize her gender's finest vocalists in tribute to some of her male inspirations. Thus, Mosaic Project: Love And Soul has a glittering array of styles and substance on the kind of material that has never been improved upon.
Carrington is a whiz. It's almost not fair how much talent she possesses. Over the course of these 12 sterling tracks, she plays guitar, bass, drums and keyboards. She picked the material with a particular singer in mind, making sure to do a little singing herself. She produced it all, arranged it all and probably swept out the studio at session's end.
One of her inspirations, Duke Ellington, for which she enlisted Natalie Cole to sing his 1943 "Come Sunday," once said, "there's nothing demeaning about playing music for dancing." She's taken that advice to heart as this particular mosaic is commercial pop soul more than jazz. Yet its compositional foundation reeks of old-school smarts. How else do you explain Chaka Khan transforming Frank Sinatra's 1951 "I'm A Fool To Want You" into a gush of soul power? The original had the singer ruminating, feeling sorry for himself, sad and probably singing it to a bartender. Chaka's too strong for such a maudlin exercise. Hers is a funky affair, quite possibly the highlight of it all.
Then again, it would be tough to pick a hit single out of all these. Oleta Adams nails the 1988 Luther Vandross ballad "For You To Love" and who do you think she wanted for the 1976 Ashford & Simpson stunner "Somebody Told A Lie"? The mid-song Afro-Latin breakdown comes as a funky surprise as Valerie Simpson herself transcends her original with the help of pianist Geri Allen. The superb and sophisticated grace of Nancy Wilson on Carrington's own "Imagine This" is fit to swoon over. Paula Cole artfully tackles Bill Withers' 1985 "You Can't Smile It Away" and Carrington herself takes Patrice Rushen's 1978 ballad "When I Found You" into the stratosphere.
With between-song spoken-word wisdom from none other than actor Billy Dee Williams, it looks like another Grammy is in her future.