Alma Naidu: Alma

The German singer, once coached by Norma Winstone, delivers a delicate set with guest spots for trombonist Nils Landgren and guitarist Dominic Miller

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Munich-based singer Alma Naidu has performed jazz, pop and classical music on numerous world stages, including the Jazzwoche Burghausen, New York’s Nublu Festival and the Leverkusen Jazz Days. She has toured India, Myanmar and the USA and recorded with the Landesjugendjazzorchestra and the MMT Big Band, also working with Tizian Jost, Anders Jormin and the Jazzrausch Big Band.

Recorded at Hansahaus Studios in Bonn, Alma offers 11 Naidu originals and one cover, played by a basic combo comprising drummer and composer Wolfgang Haffner (who also produced), pianist Simon Oslender and bassist Claus Fischer, accompanied by other players including featured musicians Swedish funk, R&B and jazz trombonist Nils Landgren and Argentine-American guitar picker Dominic Miller.

The album opens on the delicate piano and vocal of Just A Word, also yielding tasteful trombone from Landgren. Hold On To Me, another slow love song, throws unusual key changes against Oslender’s foundation piano and some nice bass from Fischer, the singer sharing ethereal backing vocals with Swedish artist Liselotte Östblom, singer-songwriter Florian Stierstorfer and opera singer Ann-Katrin Naidu (Alma’s mum), while the emotional, repeating refrain of Something ’Bout The Rain is followed by a vocal-and-piano reading of Billy Joel’s And So It Goes.

Illusion is livelier, mixing staggered piano chords with playful underlying bass, the a cappella Interlude echoes eastern influences, and the dreamy Silence Plays Your Song benefits from Thomas Stieger’s bass and Christopher Dell’s vibes. Heart Pace showcases Oslender’s dancing Fender Rhodes runs, throwing unusual shapes over cool backing vocals, and Walberla juxtaposes bright scat singing with Elizabethan-tinged vocals, underpinned by more engaging bass from Stieger.

Miller steps up for Wondering, an almost unbearable paean to love lost scored by Haffner, featuring beautiful guitar passages between Naidu’s soaring vocal tones, supplemented by Danielsson’s cello, while White Tulip sees mellow synth support from Oslender. The closing Another Kind Of Love is a classic ballad delivered by the singer and her basic trio.

To conclude, this is a beautiful debut. The lyrics evoke imagery of the natural world to convey intense emotional feeling, the music is scintillating and expertly performed, the voice sweet but fragile. Jazz influences and improvisation are modest in the short, structured ballads here, and a few more up tunes wouldn’t go amiss. However, there are jewels – Just A Word, Heart Pace, Walberla and Wondering shine brightest, proving Naidu is a gifted singer, composer and arranger. Definitely a talent to watch.

Discography
Just A Word; Hold On To Me; Something ’Bout The Rain; And So It Goes; Illusion; Interlude; Silence Plays Your Song; Heart Pace; Walberla; Wondering; White Tulip; Another Kind Of Love (48.34)
Naidu (v, bv); Simon Oslender (p, elp, syn); Claus Fischer (b); Wolfgang Haffner (d) with guests: Nils Landgren (tb, 1); Dominic Miller (g, 10); Lars Danielsson (clo, 1, 10); Thomas Stieger (b, 7, 9); Christopher Dell (vib, 7); Liselotte Östblom, Florian Stierstorfer, Ann-Katrin Naidu (bv). Bonn, Germany, November 2020, March & April 2021.
Leopard D 77096