Veteran jazz singer Andy James is scheduled to release her latest album, Rhythm in New York Friday through Le Coq Records. The 15-song record will come less than six months after the release of her then latest album, An Evening With John Patitucci and Andy James, and a little more than a year after the release of its predecessor, Tu Amor (which was released in January 2021). It is a presentation that audiences will find worth hearing at least once. The record’s blend of originals and covers makes that clear. Among the most notable of its covers, is the cover of ‘I’m Gonna Live Till I Die,’ which opens the record. It will be discussed shortly. ‘El Ritmo, which comes just ahead of the album’s midpoint, is a prime example of how much the album’s originals have to offer. It will be examined a little later. The album’s closer, ‘Just In Time,’ is yet another example of how much the album’s original content has to offer and will also be examined later. Each song noted here is important in its own way to the whole of the album’s presentation. When they are considered along with the rest of the album’s entries, the whole makes Rhythm in New York a record that James’ fans and casual jazz fans alike will appreciate.
Rhythm in New York, the third new record in a little more than a year from Andy James, is a presentation that her established audiences and casual jazz fans alike will find worth hearing at least once. Each of the 15 songs that make up the record’s body does well in its own right to make that clear, beginning with the album’s opener, a cover of ‘I’m Gonna Live Till I Die.’ Originally composed by the trio of Al Hoffman, Walter Kent, and Mann Curtis in 1950, the song was first recorded the same year by Frankie Laine. It wasn’t until Frank Sinatra recorded the song in 1954 that it really took off. It has been covered by countless artists across the musical universe since there. In the case of this rendition, the song features guest appearances by Marcus Strickland and Nate Smith. The performance by James and her fellow musicians here sticks well to the original big band vibe of the original composition. Drummer Nate Smith’s ability to keep time so steadily on the hi-hat as he works his way through his polyrhythmic fills is impressive to say the least. His ability to divide the up-tempo eighth notes on the hi-hat as he works his way across the kit not only shows his creativity, but his expert abilities. James’ own vocal delivery and her fellow musicians’ big band style performance makes the song in whole a great way to start the album. It is just one of the songs that stands out in this presentation, too. ‘El Ritmo, which comes just ahead of the album’s midpoint, is a prime example of how the album’s originals make the record enjoyable, too.
‘El Ritmo’ is of note because while it does bring out some of James’ all too familiar Afro-Latin jazz leanings through the percussion and even the distinct, simple piano line, there is something about the combination of the combination that makes this work less in your face in its Afro-Latin leanings than much of her work. James’ vocal delivery is partially to thank for that. The gentle, melodic approach that she takes to the song makes that clear. The same can be said of the performance of saxophone player Chris Potter. What sounds like a soprano sax or maybe a tenor sax being played in a very high register, it comes across as a clear modern jazz composition in its own right. The contrast of Potter’s intensely energetic solos opposite James’ vocals here make for a nice counterpoint to the more familiar Afro-Latin influence of the instrumentation. The collective makes the composition in whole truly unique and a nice change of pace from what James is known for crafting.
The lyrical theme featured in ‘El Ritmo’ (roughly translated, it fittingly means ‘Rhythm’) comes across as a song about the all too familiar topic of a broken relationship. Lyrics are not provided in the record’s booklet, but the lyrics are more than understandable here. What makes this interesting is that even with this all too familiar topic being seemingly presented here, it doesn’t match with the energy of the song’s arrangement. The arrangement is such an upbeat composition, yet this seeming theme is the polar opposite. It almost paints a picture of someone who is perhaps at that point in the breakup of just being frustrated, trying to make sense of things, which happens more than once. Anyone who has been through a breakup will attest to that. This is all just this critic’s interpretation, but it certainly makes the song all the more intriguing, and not in a bad way, either. It is just one more example of what makes Rhythm in New York worth hearing. ‘Just In Time,’ which closes the album’ is yet another way in which this is proven.
‘Just In Time’ is another original featured as part of the album’s body. The song stands out because once again, James and company take audiences in a different direction here. In the case of this song, it comes across as a sort of chamber jazz piece, what with Patitucci on bass, Jon Cowherd on the keys, Marcus Gilmore on drums, and Potter on saxophone. There is a certain intimacy about the group’s performance here. Each musicians gets his own moment to shine in this performance. There are no liner notes to explain how the fully instrumental composition came about, but that aside, it is still a welcome, modern jazz tune with the swing of a bigger group, and compliments the album’s opener well in its own way, leaving listeners on a note just as positive as the opener. When this song and the others examined here are considered along with the rest of the album’s entries, the whole whole makes even clearer why the album in whole is an improvement on its predecessors.
Andy James’ new album, Rhythm in New York, is a welcome addition to this year’s field of new jazz albums. That is proven from beginning to end. While her familiar Afro-Latin jazz leanings are present once again, James has complimented those sounds with more Western jazz influences for a record whose originals and covers alike will keep audiences engaged and entertained. All three of the songs examined here make that clear. When they are considered along with the rest of the album’s entries, the whole makes Rhythm in New York an improvement on the album’s predecessors that James’ established audiences and more casual audiences alike.
Rhythm in New York is scheduled for release Friday through Le Coq Records. More information on the album is available along with all of Andy James’ latest news at:
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