She teaches her listeners, as well, and one huge lesson is that music is not static but is fluid and ever-changing. What she presents on “Kaleidoscope” is not just an evolutionary transition—it is a Copernican Revolution. Things can no longer remain the same.
“Kaleidoscope” (Biophilia Records, BRCD0005) has been “Kaleidoscope” (Biophilia Records, BRCD0005)called Jazz but it includes equal measures of Soul and Hip-hop. There are three Hip-hop moments: Interlude 1 and 2 and in the bonus track which she did in cooperation with her brother, Nick Wood. Listening to what resulted on “Kaleidoscope” was like listening to Robert Glasper’s “Black Radio” for the first time. You take a breath and realize that the world has just become a very different place.
Her band is remarkable. Angelo Di Loreta is on keys, Olli Hirvonen is on guitar with bassist Ethan O’Reilly and drummer/percussionist Philippe Lemm. Add to that mix of young artists a veteran like tenor saxman Donny McCaslin and things get cool.
Andréa Wood is not only a splendid singer, she is an excellent composer and arranger. There are several of her original compositions on “Kaleidoscope” that will be covered by other artists for years to come. And, of course, nobody can sing a song like the one who wrote it.
With all of that, she still reinterprets others’ songs and completely makes them her own. You find yourself saying, “Wait, don’t I know this song?”
The album takes off with the original tune, “Intuition.” The opening piano riff with drums is a cool start. Angelo Di Loreto then opens a sweet left-hand groove that is snatched up by Ethan O’Reilly’s bass.
Donny McCaslin steps in and out with tenor saxophone. You just can’t get enough of this guy.
One important feature of the album is that the recording and mixing of the album places Andréa in a spatial mid-ground which she uses to maximum effect. She becomes an instrument in the band as well as the vocalist.
The song rolls away with the same cool groove that started it. Sweet and jazzy.
“The Arabesque of Love and Loss” is another Andréa original. This is Soul supreme. You can imagine Roberta Flack all over this one.
The lyrics are subject to the intonations but the lyrics are indeed touching on their own merit. Di Loreto gives a Fender Rhodes treatment of the piece as O’Reilly and Lemm are straight up on the rhythm section. A warm transition occurs in the final passages of “Intuition” as Di Loreta switches from Fender Rhodes to acoustic piano. The effect is pure gold.
As the song fades, you begin to hear the vocal effects bleed in from the following track “Interlude 1.” This effect-driven, vocally evocative interlude serves as the bridge to the first cover song on the album, Stevie Wonder’s “You And I.” Stevie’s song are perfection in their original form. Part of that perfection is that it holds up to almost any reinterpretation without any violence to the original. Andréa breathes her own life and soul into this great piece.
This is also the first track to put a spotlight on Olli Hirvonen’s guitar mastery. The electric guitar fits so well with Di Loreto’s piano and the rhythm section of O’Reilly and Lemm.
Andréa does much more than simply channel Stevie. She sings from her own heart and intelligence and leaves us hearing her and her alone. Andréa doesn’t get overshadowed by Stevie, she shares the spotlight with him.
“Take a Chance” sounds like it is already a standard. The Fender Rhodes opens the track for Andréa’s vocals. Hirvonen’s electric guitar is tight and fun while Lemm’s light drumming is a good listen as he and O’Reilly bounce under Di Loreto’s Fender Rhodes.
Andréa’s vocals are fanciful and charming. An altogether fun track.
Eden Ahbez’s “Nature Boy” enjoyed eight weeks at the top spot for Nat King Cole in 1948. Andréa simply makes the song her own. Seriously, she makes you forget that the great Cole ever recorded it. And that is saying something.
Donny McCaslin makes his second and final appearance of the album on “Nature Boy.” There is wonderful interaction between Andréa’s voice and McCaslin’s tenor sax. Di Loreto also offers a beautiful solo with the support of O’Reilly and Lemm. It is one of the true highlights of the album, performed flawlessly with the mixing pointing out every delicious morsel.
The track fades out into “Interlude 2.” The Glasper-like rhythm is cool and the vocalizations remain in the background until Andréa opens into “The Little Things.”
“The Little Things” is another original work. A heart-warming Soul tune, if ever there was one. The vocals are mesmerizing and the music is straight on the groove.
The vocals, of course, are captivating throughout the entire album but the effects on the vocals give a chorus feel. The guitar remains matched to the vocals’ chords even as the keyboards seem to go cross-current in a funky way.
“Kaleidoscope (Fall in Place)” grabs the listener from the very start. I mean, good Lord! This is lyrical and lovely and completely enchanting.
Di Loreto and Hirvonen are a great pairing. Hirvonen gets his brightest spotlight here and he makes it memorable.
The song is a finely written and delicately constructed piece, just like the crystalline structure of the kaleidoscope itself. This is the track I keep replaying.
Andréa then blindsides us with a Jazz conversion of Carly Rae Jepsen’s “Call Me Maybe.” I never saw it coming. This song got saved at Andréa’s First Church of Vocal Jazz. Olli Hirvonen’s sanctified guitar gets an “Amen!” from the congregation and Di Loreto’s piano is delightful in this brilliant arrangement.
“Parting Ways” is sweetly melancholic. Andréa’s vocals—alongside Di Loreto’s accompaniment—are warm and touching.
Ethan O’Reilly gets a long-awaited solo on bass which is equally tender before turning it over to Di Loreto’s piano.
Andréa’s returning vocals are pain-stricken and lonely. The hurt in something so lovely is the most heart-wrenching of all. Amazing. But that song about separation and loneliness is peacefully and hopefully caressed by the following piece, Bob Marley’s “Three Little Birds.”
Hirvonen’s opening guitar is a great nod-and-a-wink to Marley. The arrangement is more Gospel than Reggae and that is enhanced by Di Loreto’s B3 organ.
Andréa sings the line “Don’t worry, ‘cause every little thing is gonna be all right.” That line may be the most memorable of all of Marley’s wonderful lyrics. Andréa delivers the lyric with the same assuredness and hope. What a sweet way to end the album proper.
There is an important bonus track, the third with her brother Nick Wood. “Doowop” features Nick as vocalist and co-producer with Andréa. The three tracks with Nick Wood provide the Hip-hop infusion into the album.
“Kaleidoscope” is a work of jazzy, soulful brilliance. Mixing covers and originals, Andréa Wood declares—in her rich vocals—that things are not as they once were. And thank heavens for it.
~Travis Rogers, Jr. is The Jazz Owl
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