Carmen Lundy – Code Noir
Carmen Lundy is a completely modern throwback. There’s nothing antiquated about her approach, but she has the songwriting and vocal talent to have thrived during jazz music’s commercial heyday and stacks up favorably against the other talents of that time. She never restricts herself. Lundy is an actress and educator as well whose knowledge of music extends far past the realm of jazz and can play multiple instruments. This sort of multi-disciplined approach isn’t common in our modern world. She doesn’t speak from the past, however; her songwriting is vibrant, presented with the best modern production possible, and her subjects touch on the eternal subjects for song in new, fresh, and highly individual ways. The twelve songs on her latest album Code Noir are all originals and each has a singular twist or turn that differentiates them from the rest. Few artists working today can be said to have such a singular approach.
“Another Chance” highlights that well. Not every musical artist would lay down the gauntlet for their listeners in such a way as to begin an album with a song that’s, essentially, ambient jazz. Nothing here follows a straight line, but it testifies to the talents of those involved that it all comes together quite effortlessly despite that. Songs like “Black and Blues” are much more conventional. The musicianship, however, is off the charts. Drummer Kendrick James and pianst Patrice Rushen are the dynamic musical forces making much of Code Noir as good as it is and this is the first power-packed showcase of their respective skills. Lundy lays down her best vocal on the album yet and the lyrics look at current events with a personal spirit that never sounds too preachy or smug, but open-hearted and hurting instead. “Afterglow” is a lyrically and musically adept number that qualifies as another instrumental showcase over which Lundy weaves her magic. Defining showcase on an album like this is easy. This band of virtuosos or near-virtuosos are never self-indulgent – all of their musical turns, however dazzling or complex, are ultimately geared towards serving the song and take their cues from that context. “Afterglow” is a memorable example of that principle at work.
“Second Sight” marks a noticeable shift. Jeff Parker’s blues-influenced guitar runs bring a different sound to this track and Lundy excels working in this vein. “The Island, The Sea and You” is definitely one of the album’s finest moments and likely Lundy’s best lyric on the album. They even incorporate a light amount of spice into the rhythm for good measure, but it’s Patrice Rushen’s mesmerizing piano runs that are the musical highlight of the performance. “I Got Your Number” has an abundance of attitude and a particularly strong Lundy vocal while the comparatively low key “You Came Into My Life” throbs with real gratitude thanks to the juxtaposition of Lundy’s emotive vocal against the slowly unfolding band performance. Carmen Lundy’s latest release isn’t just a bounty for jazz lovers; there’s something here for everyone and she’s certain to impress any newcomers to her work.
9 out of 10 stars