Arianna Neikrug: Changes

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This is the debut album from Neikrug, winner of the 2015 Sarah Vaughan International Jazz Vocal Competition. It’s an interesting set list containing familiar standards, a couple of original compositions by the singer, plus some eyebrow-raisers – the Jackson Five’s “I’ll Be There”, for example, features as part of a medley number. I’m not wholly convinced the song works as a “lush jazz ballad”, as arranger Laurence Hobgood pitches it, but nonetheless it’s an intriguing inclusion.

Neikrug’s sound is earnest and velvety smooth, and she wields it assuredly, breaking out into a convincing flurry of scat in “No Moon at All” that comes as something of a surprise after its tentative beginning. The slightly airbrushed, mechanical tang and elfin tone to her vocal call Stacey Kent to mind. She has a way of wavering almost imperceptibly before fully tuning into a note, which is a nifty way of giving it some extra colour. 

Other notables among the listing are “Let’s Stay Together” which, although an intimate and soulful reading, sticks very closely to Al Green’s original. The century-old “After You’ve Gone” is dusted off and brought into the 21st century, livened up by a dose of ice-cool scat, while time signatures are flung about with gay abandon in “The Song Is You”, making it sound choppy and a little disjointed. But perhaps that’s a small price to pay to see life continue to be breathed into songs that might otherwise fade into obscurity. All in all, a singer worth keeping tabs on.

Discography
No Moon at All; Spring Can Really Hang You up the Most; Let’s Stay Together; Changes; Never Let Me Go/I’ll Be There; The Song Is You; New York Song; After You’ve Gone; Devil May Care; Help Me/Be Cool (48.00)
Neikrug (v); Laurence Hobgood (p); Matt Clohesy (b); Jared Schonig (d). Paramus, NJ, 2018.
Concord Jazz CJA00103