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Music Review: Lisa B – The Poetry Of Groove

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I've always been attracted to, uhmm…..'non-standard' listening. This applies to ambient sounds, instruments, and voices too. Some of my female favorites coming from the latter category include Lene Lovich, Kate Bush, Yoko Ono, The Roches, Meredith Monk, and Bjork. This doesn't mean that I don't enjoy 'regular' singers. Far from it. In the jazz world, there's always room for a daily shot of Abbey Lincoln, Shirley Horn, Billie Holiday, Diana Krall, and Cassandra Wilson.

But for a higher resonance factor, my ears want to hear something different. This might include weird arrangements, oddly-bent notes, freakish harmonies, microtones, and non-linear melodies. The only problem here (aside from the increased probability of room-clearing) is that sometimes the humanity and emotion can get masked by the perceived strangeness of the presentation. I had this problem when I first heard Kate Bush (around the time of The Dreaming) but was won over after a single listen to "The Man With The Child In His Eyes" (from her first record).

With Lisa B (that would be Bernstein), there was never any doubt. I was hooked when I first heard what she did with What's New, Pussycat?. Yes, Bacharach and David wrote it, and Tom Jones took off with it, but Lisa B. put a very cool spin on it.

On The Poetry Of Groove, Lisa B takes her spoken word beautifully sung excursions and wraps them up in a bunch of snazzy grooves that vary from hip-hop to slinky jazzification. On the spiritually uplifting "Get The Signal," the grooves are built from a sparse outline (thanks to what sounds like a kalimba) into something more earthy and insistent. The title track's hopeful message ("…It's the things you crave that fill you with singing…") is set up with a slow burn that opens up with the addition of strings, backing vocals, and piano & funk guitar accents. On "Trane's Ride (Naima) (Remastered)," Bernstein delivers some very evocative poetry over a hip-hop mashup of the Coltrane classic.

All is not serious here though, as "Virtual Kiss (Remix)" jokes about dissatisfaction with a life of office work. Wait…maybe that's not so funny! Even so, I did laugh at the line "Did I go to college for this?" On this track Lisa B also adds some terrific backing vocals with slightly off-kilter harmonies. Maybe they're not as off-kilter as the idea of spending an entire working life in a cubicle.

Oh, did I mention that Lisa B can bring the sexy? "Turning It Around (Remix)" is carried by a sultry groove that kicks in after the breathy opening of "Turn around….just like that…ahhhh…" A peach is then used as a metapho…..uhhhh, what were we talking about?

In a world that pretty much drips of fresh cynicism, music such as that found on The Poetry Of Groove becomes all the more important. We are very often our own worst enemy. We'd be smart to take our eyes off 'the prize' and allow some positive (and perhaps 'non-standard') forms of progression in. Before it's too late.

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About Mark Saleski

  • Jordan Richardson

    We’d be smart to take our eyes off ‘the prize’ and allow some positive (and perhaps ‘non-standard’) forms of progression in. Before it’s too late.

    Yes. Please.

    I really enjoyed this album, as you know. Great review.