Jazzwise Review “The Huntress”

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The Jazzwise review of “The Huntress” below – in full! …

“There’s so much to recommend in this debut album from vocalist Emma Smith, it’s difficult to know where to start. A precocious talent, Smith was NYJO’s female vocalist aged just 15 and has subsequently gone on to star in the London Jazz Festival, The Billy Strayhorn Story (which aired on BBC Radio 2) and as a featured soloist with the Callum Au Big Band.

Still only 21, the debut consists of no fewer than seven originals, and the arresting title track immediately alerts you to the sophistication of Smith’s compositional thinking. Saving the final surprise until last, the singer’s layered backing harmonies appear like a sudden ray of celestial light. Whether it’s the surprising chromaticisms and turbulent undercurrents of ‘Can’t Slow Down’, the telling combination of firepower and precision that lights up ‘Stolen Child’ or the wordless vocalisations of ‘John’s Law’, Smith shows great imagination and vitality.

As an added bonus, ‘I’ll Be Seeing You’ is one of three songs graced by a typically fine solo from the great Stan Sulzmann. The free time introduction to ’56 Weeks’ – Smith and Sulzmann starting in melodic unison before separating out into delicious two-part harmony, accompanied by bowed bass, delicate piano filigree and plashes of percussive colour – is just one of the many standout moments. And aside from her impressive originals, Smith also demonstrates a facility for casting hallowed standards such as ‘Old Devil Moon’ in fresh new rhythmic constructs.” – Peter Quinn