Singer and trombonist Natalie Cressman’s Kickstarter proposal for funding for her second album, Turn the Sea, describes it as “a collection of my songs and arrangements, and the impression the music leaves with its listeners is something very reflective of who I am… It defies classification by genre alone, bringing together musical worlds rather than trying to dissect and fragment them.” Genre-defying is in fact a good description of the album, due for release on March 11.
Her first album, Unfolding, focused on Cressman the jazz trombonist. She sang as well, but she was definitely highlighting her jazz chops. A tune like her own original “Flip” is a classic jazz ensemble piece. Her vocals—a little Brazilian vocalise here, a classic jazz tune there—are something of an added attraction, the whipped cream on the sundae. The new album flips (to borrow her title) the emphasis: the singer-songwriter is front and center and the trombonist is the cherry on top, as she combines what she calls “a sonic blend of indie, jazz, and Afro-Latin styles.”
Cressman, it seems, is trying to both maintain the basic elements of her jazz tradition as well as appeal to a broader audience. And while there may be those of us who were quite happy with what she was already doing, it’s hard to find fault with an artist who is looking for new ways to develop and grow. She can do cool. She can do hot, and if she wants to do a little melodic pop, why not? Especially if it’s her cover of Bon Iver’s “Blindsided.”
The album’s nine tracks open with the title song and close with an electronically vibed remix of the tune by the band’s bassist, Johnathan Stein, which may suggest even newer directions on tap for the vocalist. “Fortune’s Fool” is, as the title suggests, a dark love song that plays with some interesting rhythms and adds a bit of vocalise. The very suggestive “Checkout Time” echoes the passage of time moving into an almost eerily otherworldly place. “Winter Chill” on the other hand, is a more conventional almost pop piece, while “New Moon” swings with a Latin beat.
If Turn the Sea is a new direction, it is a new direction worth exploring,