Nana Rashid: Music For Betty

Danish singer inhabits a cool yet emotionally charged space somewhere between Nina Simone and Radka Toneff

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I mentioned this striking session from Danish vocalist Nana Rashid in my review of Wide Open, the latest release on April Records from the Danish trio Little North, who accompany Rashid here. An assured, poised and most soulful vocalist, who sings in excellent English throughout, Rashid released the EP Sorrow In Sunlight in 2016. This is her full-length debut.

The release is graced by a sleeve-note as musically literate as it is enthusiastic from Danish saxophonist and composer Cecilie Strange – whose own thoughtful and melodic work has been warmly welcomed in JJ by Derek Ansell (1, 2).

As Strange says in the preface to her track-by-track analysis, “There is a strong sense of warmth and understanding in the very powerful musical communication between Nana Rashid and the trio. Together they manage to lift Rashid’s beautiful and melancholic songs as well as the occasional cover version into a whole new dimension with references to soul and African culture […] merging with Nordic jazz elements.”

Think of a cool yet emotionally charged space somewhere between Nina Simone and Radka Toneff and you’ll have some idea of the dimension of which Strange speaks. The Simone factor is present in pieces which draw from gospel (the title track), address central questions of personal identity (Mother, Father) and can get deeply funky and swinging (They Call it Love) while Toneff comes to mind especially in the refiguring of Peggy Lee’s Johnny Guitar, the standard No Moon At All and the concluding meditation on love that is Some Other Way.

This is not to speak of any attempt at mere imitation or emulation on Rashid’s part. Her patiently projected, intimate yet potent tone and phrasing are all her own, complemented throughout by a range of dynamically adroit three-way figures from the surpassing Little North. A superb debut album.

Discography
Poor Blue Betty; Goodbye My Love; Johnny Guitar; Mother, Father; No Moon At All; Pearls; They Call It Love; Some Other Way (35.03)
Rashid (v); Benjamin Nørholm Jacobsen (p); Martin Brunbjerg Rasmussen (b); Lasse Jacobsen (d). Copenhagen, 17-18 January 2022.
April Records APR105CD