Nicole has taken Jazz standards and Pop hits and turn them upside down with her remarkable talent and style. Tunes that I enjoyed in their pop setting have been wondrously rephrased, even reinvented, by Nicole's artistry. Then she brings along her South Florida compatriots including Pete Wallace on piano, organ, and keyboards, Doug Emery on organ, Eric England on bass, Dave Chiverton on drums, Aaron Lebos on guitar, Richard Bravo and Eduardo Rodriguez on percussion, Troy Roberts, Tom McCormick, and John Michalak on tenor saxophones, Teddy Mulet on trumpet and trombone, Jim Hacker and Jean Caze on trumpet, Jorge Dorbal, Jr. on trombone, Gregoire Maret on harmonica, Dan Warner on acoustic guitar, Camilo Velandia on electric guitar, and Samantha Natalie, Nikki Kidd, Lenora Jaye, and Rachel Brown on backing vocals.
Time to Love Again has it all. Nicole has astonishing delivery, intonation, and interpretation and the artists with her help her bring it all to pass.
It all starts with Anthony Newley’s Feeling Good from the 1964 musical Roar of the Greasepaint—the Smell of the Crowd. The hot Latin rhythms that open the song are picked up by the piano, guitar, bass, and organ before being joined by a brilliant horn section. Pete Wallace’s piano work is right on target. From the start, however, it is the magic that is Nicole that steals your heart.
Then comes Midnight at the Oasis made popular by Maria Muldaur and one of my favorite tracks on the whole album. Gregoire Maret adds that unmistakable harmonica to an already unforgettable song that Nicole transforms into what should become a Jazz standard. Then Nicole takes on the James Taylor classic, Your Smiling Face. John Michalak’s tenor saxophone adds great soul and depth and Nicole herself makes this Pop classic pleasing to any Jazz aficionado.
Nicole follows with I Didn’t Know What Time It Was by Rodgers & Hart from the 1939 musical Too Many Girls. The song has been recorded by McCoy Tyner, Chick Corea, Billie Holiday, Charlie Parker, Ella Fitzgerald, and Barbara Streisand but Nicole makes this song her own and Pete Wallace makes the piano part absolutely priceless. So help me, I kept hitting repeat and kept loving it more and more.
Nicole returns to the Pop world with Sade’s Is It a Crime? Aaron Lebos’ guitar is excellent and the Jean Craze trumpet is worth special attention. Nicole then works her magic on the 1965 Pop song by Buffy Sainte-Marie, Until It’s Time for You to Go. The song centers on a couple who cannot stay together because of the different backgrounds. Nicole just owns it. I always loved the original but Nicole steals the show.
Wild is the Wind came to my attention with the David Bowie version, which was actually a tribute to Nina Simone. As I recall, this 1975 Bowie version was what introduced me to Nina Simone. Nicole surpasses all previous versions through her flawless and warm delivery.
Another favorite artist of mine is Joan Armatrading. Nicole reinterprets Joan’s song Love and Affection and the results are marvelous. The background vocals from Samantha Natalie, Nikki Kidd, Lenora Jaye, and Rachel Brown and Samantha’s vocal arrangement are stellar. Cool chord changes and Nicole’s interplay with Michalak’s tenor sax and the smoking B3 from Pete Wallace turn this song upside down and make it a true treasure.
Nicole wraps up the album with that great Stevie Wonder classic Overjoyed. While the song has been rearranged, it remains beautifully faithful to the masterful original. Somewhere, Stevie’s is digging this. The musical arrangement is cool and a bit funky but the Nicole vocals are fabulous. Great way to close out a great album.
Nicole Henry’s Time to Love Again is a gorgeous treatment of songs we already loved only to discover that we could love them all over again. Nicole Henry is a marvel and a gift to music.
~Travis Rogers, Jr. is The Jazz Owl