Carmen Lundy

Carmen Lundy returns this month with new studio album Modern Ancestors. It contains self-penned and arranged tracks and a Carmen band consisting of Julius Rodriguez on piano, brother Curtis Lundy on acoustic upright bass, Kenny Davis on both electric and acoustic bass, Mayra Casales on percussion, Terreon Gully alternating with Kassa Overall on drums and Andrew Renfroe on guitar – recorded at Stagg Street Studios in Los Angeles. 

Marlbank had a listen to the album right through last night and we will bring you a full review at release time. Suffice to say it is sophisticated and excellent. Make a note to look for the album at a busy time of year just before the countdown to the end of year holiday season madness begins.

As a tiny preview in terms of a few introductory comments the stand-out songs, and happily there are quite a few, are the very impressive and meaningful love song ‘Meant for Each Other’ and by contrast the witty and amusing ‘Jazz on TV’ where lyrics and delivery align so very intuitively. Over earnestness through this inclusion is banished.

There are also some significant additional songs, one or two even greater in intensity than the aforementioned, and which we can go into in more detail later. For now Carmen glosses in a few general notes to the media about the songs and on ‘Meant for Each Other’ writes that the song “harkens back to the mid-eighties when I was just beginning to seriously consider singing original songs only. I, along with many other vocalists, songwriters and composers, was busy making gigs in and around New York City and performing our own tunes. I arranged this song based on changing harmony and chord progressions in the intro, while staying true to the original melody and lyric written by Julie Raynor and Marilyn Redfield Castilaw. Laid down with a soulful, timeless groove.”

As for ‘Jazz on TV’ she says the song is “questioning why we see little or no jazz in television programming and in multi media. Sounds funny but it’s true. I think it is time to do something about that.”

One of the world’s great jazz singers it is seven years since we last heard the singer live and that was at Ronnie Scott’s circa Changes. At that time Carmen, who began her career in Miami where she hails from, was with Anthony Wonsey on piano, Philly bassist Darryl Hall on both acoustic bass and later electric; and introducing young Floridian Jamison Ross on drums, a real find and as it turned out future Monk prize winner with a big recessed beat that made me think of Terreon “Tank” Gulley. It is interesting that “Tank” who first blew us all away when he was with the Christian McBride electric band is on the upcoming record.

That night inside number 47 Frith Street appearing from behind the dressing room door to the left of the stage, Lundy with her bare shoulders draped in a fur with her fingers and arms covered by long crimson gloves, the singer soon controlled the stage with a dizzying array of gestures, gesticulations and knowing looks. Half Betty Carter, half Grace Jones as she shoulder danced along to the trio she opened with her simmering Maya Angelou referencing ‘I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings’ frequently grimacing as she scanned the decent sized Monday first set crowd, picking out the middle distance with her extended right hand. With her cropped hair, youthfully slim appearance, and riotous sense of abandon, she showed both her power and ideas on mostly original material new and longstanding. 

Changes was her twelfth album, (Soul to Soul and Code Noir have appeared since) and during the gig Lundy was also content to reprise earlier material including the tour de force ‘You’re Not In Love’ which allowed her to reach out to long time fans and reminisce about Hoxton’s Bass Clef the club former Lennie Tristano bassist Peter Ind used to run. There were a few scenesters from that time in the audience as someone in the audience chatted back to Lundy as she recalled the jazz club scene of the time, and even Gilles Peterson could be glimpsed slipping into the main room as he emerged from backstage. Best in the first set was the political ‘Love Thy Neighbor’, a civil rights anthem all the more fitting as it was delivered on the evening of the Martin Luther King federal holiday in the States. The more sensual second set songs added yet another dimension to this strong showing with ‘(I Dream) In Living Colour’ another highlight that distant but memorable night. SG

Modern Ancestors (Afrasia) is to be released on 25 October.