I Love is the debut album of Cristina Morrison, a jazz vocalist/lyricist with the kind of vocal chops that promise many more to come. A little blues, a little pop, a lot of jazz, much of it tinged by a touch of Ecuador, variety is the keynote of the album. Nine songs, six original compositions and three classic covers give the singer an opportunity to demonstrate what might be called the many sides of Cristina Morrison. Her sound is hard to define. She can be sexy and sultry. She can show her vulnerable side. She can swing. Her vocals can be pure crystal, and her phrasing is sweetly inventive. There is a lot of good listening on tap.
The album starts strong. Her own tune “Summer in New York” begins with a bluesy bass line picked up by a haunting muted trumpet from Walter Szymanski that reeks of the city, swings a bit, and ends with a sexy moan. This is the kind of song that belongs in one of those ’40s noir films. “Fifteen Day Affair,” which deals with a shipwreck and an affair, begins with a rich sax solo from Morrison’s composer and life collaborator, Christian Hidrobo. It also features an elegant harmonica solo from Gregoire Maret. The song has an almost mystical feel. “I Love,” the title song, is a swinging list of all the things she loves that sounds like something out of a Fred Astaire movie. It is a pared down arrangement for Morrison and a trio, with some featured piano work from Steve Einerson.
“Stand Still” is a spritely samba with some more nice harmonica work. “Red Mafia and Jass” is a big and brassy toast to New Orleans with a rocking guitar solo from Vinny Valentino, followed by Alex Harding on the baritone sax. The last of the Morrison tunes, “Perfect Little Storms,” is a mellow ballad dedicated to the singer’s two children. Like “I Love,” it is a spare ensemble until Hidrobo chimes in with a solo at the end. It is a good example of the old cliché, less is…well, you get the idea.
The covers include “What a Difference a Day Makes,” arranged as a bolero with a solo on the requinto by Navijio Cevallos. “East of the Sun” is a bossa nova that begins with a masterful trumpet opening and adds a fine solo later in the song. Morrison’s vocals on both are spot on. The album ends with as sultry a take on the Billie Holiday classic “Fine and Mellow” as you’re likely to hear. At first a duet between the singer and the bass of Marcus McLaurine, Szymanski joins with some low-down brass, then the rest of the ensemble comes along for the ride. The tune is a fine and mellow climax to a really enjoyable debut album. The other musicians on the album include Willard Dyson (drums), Sammy Torres (percussion), and Alex Alvear (electric bass). It’s a group of guys who can play.
The CD also provides a scan code for a bonus DVD on the making of I Love which uses snippets of some of the songs and stresses the collaborative nature of the project. It is available on the singer’s website.