It took them four years to do all the writing but they completed the recording process during quarantine in their home. The results are amazing. Sarah Elizabeth first came to my attention as part of the groundbreaking group Ajoyo and Jarrett as part of the tight band Sketches.
Sarah Elizabeth can capture the rage and anguish as well as any vocalist I have ever heard but that is set aside for a more harmonious and agapeic sensibility on Tone. Jarrett is especially creative and, may I say, deserving of sharing the name with another Jarrett of piano fame.
To experience the two of them together it is truly a moment not to be missed. And it is only the two of them, Sarah Elizabeth on vocals and Jarrett on piano, throughout the entirety of the album. And they are all you need. The album is as warm as their home must be.
The album opens with Conscious Mind. The beautiful piano lyricism of Jarrett creates the perfect and picturesque background for Sarah Elizabeth’s multi-layered vocal tracks. The closing refrain of “Love the world…Love the world…” sets the mood for the remainder of the album.
Hanging On To Time begins with an intoning piano introduction. Adapted from Robert Frost’s poem Nothing Gold Can Stay, Sarah Elizabeth’s beautiful delivery washes over you and the hopeful lyrics and emotive chord changes cause a pause for reflection on the state of the world amidst Trumpism and pandemia. But through it all, “We must welcome change…Embrace what comes our way.” Gorgeous.
Shine On is a bit more strident (in a good way) in both with Jarrett’s opening single-note march and Sarah Elizabeth’s anthemic delivery. Then comes the almost-Latin piano passage as Sarah Elizabeth layers the vocals. The lyrics of self-esteem and self-discovery are powerful and welcome.
Speak opens with contemplative simplicity before developing into something of Jazz sonata from Jarrett. The inimitable Jesse Fischer adds to the soundscape here as Sarah Elizabeth layers on the exquisite vocalizations, chanting simply, “speak…speak…” I’m not sure I have ever heard anything more beautiful in my entire life. I admit that I am an emotional man and this song brought me to tears.
Wild One is a ballad of self-expression and finding a home within a loving relationship. “Wait, don’t go ahead of me. This is our time to exist… I want to disappear into your arms…” Just listen to the warmth of the vocals and the piano in harmonious love.
Stardust is not your mama’s Hoagy Carmichael version. The nocturnal imagery of Jarrett’s piano and the wistful, wanting vocals from Sarah Elizabeth’s are intoxicating. And Gloria is nothing like the songs of the same name by Them (Van Morrison) or Laura Branigan. This is art. Again, the layers of vocals over the simple, lovely piano passages is more like the section of the Mass. Transcendent and emotional, this song is church on its best days.
The album concludes with Out Loud. “She did not know she was able to pray…He did not know that he’d have to prove...” The song revolves around the right and power to decide. “It’s not about a win or lose, only what path we choose to choose.” The piano is stunning and the vocals are mesmerizing. This was a song and an album that I did not want to ever end.
Tone is the inevitable evolution of the talents, skills, and hearts of Sarah Elizabeth Charles and Jarrett Cherner. Like lipids, proteins, and nucleic acids combing to make life, these two amazing artists have created something unique that the world has awaited since the beginning. It’s that good.
~Travis Rogers, Jr. is The Jazz Owl