Given the number of fine jazz singers (and some not so fine) recording these days, a new voice that stands out in the crowd is a welcome addition. Vanessa Perea is just such a voice. Her debut album from Zoho, Soulful Days, is a throwback to the queens of jazz singing. Ella, Sarah—Perea has the kind of promising chops that perhaps one day will have her joining the hierarchy. If Soulful Days is any indication, she is well on her way.
The 11-tune set includes a couple of standards, some tunes penned by jazz men and a bit of Latin jazz, giving the singer an opportunity to show she is not a one-trick pony. Backed by a quintet of stellar sidemen, working with arrangements by trombonist Robert Edwards, Perea takes each and every song and makes it her own. Whether she’s singing an old warhorse like “Tenderly” or lyrics she wrote herself to Kenny Dorham’s “K. D.’s Motion,” which she calls “Let Me Tell You,” she plays her voice the way a fine musician plays his horn. Her “Tenderly” is HER “Tenderly.”
She absolutely romps through “Too Marvelous for Words,” led by the hard-driving drums of Evan Sherman, who also joins with bassist Dylan Shamat for some fine duo work on “December Blue.” “Let Me Tell You” gives trumpeter Matt Jodrill one of his limited opportunities to show what he can do.
Antonio Carlos Jobim’s “Triste” has her opening with some vocalise before latching on to the bossa nova beat and features solo work from pianist Dave Lantz, before Edwards comes in on the trombone. Indeed, Edwards in many respects dominates the accompaniment. There is hardly a track where he isn’t front and center complementing Perea’s bell-like vocals.
Often Perea is busy scatting, trading lines with Edwards as they work their way through a tune. It starts immediately in the album’s opener, “Devil May Care” and continues through the album. She does a lot of dynamic scatting throughout with the kind of creative sound that defines jazz singing for many listeners.
And if she is on top of her game when it comes to upbeat numbers, she is no less impressive in her heartfelt performances of ballads like “Jim” and “Luz do Sol.” But when it comes right down to it, her hundred-yard dash scatting through the Bud Powell bopper “Celia” is something special, and, for that matter, so is Vanessa Perea.[amazon template=iframe image&asin=B00KJO2ULE]