It is not just her vocal abilities—which are incredible—but her ability to accurately interpret songs and their lyrics with the aplomb of a Sarah Vaughan. She can be witty and wise, warm and absolutely wonderful. All from a young woman who started singing at Birdland’s open mic night at the age of 12 years old. At 13, she was a leader. At 15, she decided to record her debut album. Having already performed a Duke Ellington and Billy Strayhorn tribute at Birdland, and having such a natural feel for their music, her mother suggested her debut album be entirely of Ellington/Strayhorn compositions.
That’s good news for us. Who doesn’t adore Billy and the Duke? She says, “I can’t imagine it being any other album. It’s a good representation of where I’m at musically and personally. The overall color of the album, a little sad, a little blue, a little romantic, is really me.”
The song selection is remarkable and plays right into the remarkable strengths of Emmet Cohen and the band. And Anaȉs is correct—the mood of the album is a bit melancholic and a little romantic. And a lot of wonderful moments.
Day Dream is a wonder. Simply gorgeous but, then, everything about this album is. Caravan is still the smoking number we have all come to love and anticipate. I’m Just a Lucky So and So and I Ain’t Got Nothin’ but the Blues are exceptional runs and Pennicott makes some sweet and sad sax additions to really liven things up.
Mood Indigo and Lush Life both just get you where it counts. Lush Life by Anaȉs is as good as any vocal version you’ve ever heard. I mean, Good Lord. And if opening the album with Caravan was an unexpected delight, so is the album’s closer, Take the ‘A’ Train. Emmet and the fellas are spot on but that is no surprise. Still, Emmet turns in some exciting piano runs. Then there is Anaȉs who takes this signature piece of Ellington/Strayhorn and she just owns it. Pennicott adds that hot sax again and Anaȉs’ scat vocalizations are as outstanding as anyone of our time. Her maturity is so much a part of her that you stop marveling at her young age and simply enjoy the ride of the whole album.
There’s the thing: early on, you stop marveling at her ageless maturity and you marvel at her vocal dexterity and her profound ability to interpret lyrics. With Emmet Cohen and this excellent band, Anaȉs is given the support to show her flawless talent. And there, in an instant, Lovesome Thing: Anaȉs Reno Sings Ellington & Strayhorn became my favorite album of the year.
~Travis Rogers, Jr. is The Jazz Owl