Singer Jeannine Otis has been making her mark in the music industry for more than four decades, recording and performing with the likes of Grover Washington, Jr., Ella Fitzgerald and her cousin, famed drummer Elvin Jones. While Otis’ resume is extensive to say the least, she herself has ironically released only one solo album, 1980’s Magic Song. That eight-song record was re-issued twice, in 2003 and 2013. Otis finally ended the three-decade-plus wait for her next solo album last month with the release of her sophomore album, Into My Heart. The nine-song record, released March 5 through Adrielle Music, is a production that listeners will agree is worth hearing at least once. That is due in part to the songs that make up the record’s body. They will be discussed shortly. Otis’ performances of said songs — and those of her fellow musicians – add their own appeal to the recording’s presentation. They will be discussed a little later. The overarching lyrical theme that accompanies the record’s musical content rounds out the most important of the album’s elements. It will be discussed later, too. When it is considered along with the record’s musical arrangements and related performances, the whole makes Into My Heart a presentation that will find itself a widely appealing record.
Jeannine Otis’ sophomore album is a presentation that most listeners will agree was worth the thirty year-plus wait. That is proven in part through its featured songs. The songs are a mix of original compositions and covers. The covers comprise only a small portion of the songs, at only two of its nine total songs. They are covers of Duke Ellington’s ‘In a Sentimental Mood,’ and Billie Holiday’s ‘Lover Man.’ The rest of the songs are compositions that were composed either by Otis, Otis and others, or by her fellow musicians. That Otis and officials at Adrielle Music opted to give Otis and company’s music more presence here than the covers shows a concerted effort to really put their collective talents on display. The covers become little more than window dressing. That is not to say that the covers are anything bad. It is just to say that their minimalist presence allows Otis and company to fully shine, and shine they do in each performance.
Speaking of the performances presented throughout the 44-minute run time of Into My Heart, each is unique from the others. That is even with each song being so gentle in its presentation. Case in point is the performance by Otis and company in ‘Touch Me Tonight.’ As the song’s title infers, the song is a song directly centered on intimacy between a man and woman. Keeping that in mind, it would have been so easy for Otis and her fellow musicians to get way too schmaltzy. Thankfully, that did not happen here. The gentle piano line performed here alongside Otis’ satin-soft vocal delivery gives the song such a depth in its simplicity. The production used to give Otis’ vocals and the piano the airy sound that they exhibit adds its own touch. The whole makes the performance overall feel and sound like something that belongs in the soundtrack for some romance flick from the 1960s. That is meant in the most complimentary fashion possible.
Another example of the importance of the performances featured in this record comes in ‘Brazilian Jam.’ The song’s very title leads listeners to expect a Latin-tinged composition. That is what audiences get here, but it is not all that they get in the largely instrumental track. Listeners also get some subtle electronic elements incorporated into the whole. The thing is that even with everything going on, those elements and Otis’ singing are so well-balanced. What’s more the subtlety in each musician’s part is so powerful in its own simple, subtle presentation. That clear sharing of the spotlight so to speak shows a certain chemistry between the collective. It also makes the song a nice respite from all of the run-of-the-mill Afro-Latin type works that are out there. It is just one more way in which the group’s performances prove important to the album’s presentation.
Otis’ performance of ‘In a Sentimental Mood’ is yet another example of the importance of the performances overall. Whereas the original composition is relaxed, it still boasts a full compliment of instruments, including subtle time keeping, horns, and saxophone. Otis’ performance on the other hand features a far more relaxed take on the song. In this case, the song is performed solely by Otis and guitarist Saul Rubin. It is such a light work that one could easily classify it as an easy listening style jazz composition. It is a unique take on the song, but is still its own positive performance that continues to show why the performances overall are so important to the album. It shows the diversity in those performances and at the same time, the talents and abilities of Otis and all involved. Keeping that in mind, it should be clear at this point why the performances featured in this album are just as important to the record’s presentation as the songs themselves. They are just one more part of what makes the album worth hearing. The overarching lyrical theme of Into My Heart rounds out its most important elements.
The overarching lyrical theme of Into My Heart is that of romance, as the album’s title infers. From the album’s opening number, ‘Mood is for Lovin’,’ to ‘Lover Man,’ to its title track – which closes out the record – the songs featured in the album follow that central theme. Yes, there are some songs (E.g. ‘Brazilian Jam,’ ‘Sweet Sad Guitar,’ and ‘Cokika’) that are not directly centered on that theme. That aside, the majority of the album’s songs run on the noted theme. Considering that and the mood that the performances of the songs creates, the elements overall make Into My Heart a record that couples will find a good fit for any date night soundtrack.
Jeannine Otis’ new album Into My Heart is an interesting addition to this year’s field of new jazz albums. It is a presentation that most jazz fans will find is worth hearing at least occasionally. That is due in part to the songs that make up the record’s body. The songs are mostly original compositions. A pair of covers blends with the originals to make the songs their own important part of the album’s presentation. The performances of the noted songs that Otis and her fellow musicians present here add even more to the album’s appeal. That is because of their ability to keep listeners engaged and entertained even being so simple and subtle in their presentations. The overarching lyrical theme that runs through the album’s body rounds out the record’s most important elements. It works with the songs and their performances to complete the album’s presentation. Each item noted here is important in its own way to the whole of Into My Heart. All things considered, they make the album a work that jazz fans will find a good fit for any romantic situation. Into My Heart is available now. More information on the album is available along with Otis’ latest news at:
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