Douyé: The Golden Sèkèrè

LA-based Nigerian singer adds an African flavour to her interpretations of standards, accompanied by top-drawer jazz players

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Cover versions of the Great American Songbook appear regularly, many simply repetitions, adding little. Here the Lagos-born, Los Angeles-based singer Douyé uses an assortment of musicians in various combinations to successfully blend classic songs with her Nigerian roots.

The orchestral arrangements are first rate and the influence of Afrobeat (Fela Kuti an inspiration) is apparent, especially on the big band numbers. A good example is the vibrant I’ve Got You Under My Skin, the deep tones of Roger Cox’s baritone and riffing brass guided by the trombone of Marty Wehner and bubbling percussion. This is later revisited by a smaller group. Ellington’s It Don’t Mean A Thing is dutifully followed but given West African changes, the arrangement by tenor soloist Zem Audu.

The small ensembles are similarly effective, Afro Blue driven by the pulsating combination of guitarist Dokun Oke, bassist Sezin Ahmet Turkmenoglu, the piano of Dapo Torimiro and percussionist Najite Agindotan. Kurt Weill’s Speak Low is directed by the assertive piano of Elio Villafranco whilst Devil May Care is essentially a duet between Douyé and bassist Buster Williams, with support from Agindotan. But it’s My Funny Valentine that catches the attention, Victor Silva’s attentive piano a foil for Sean Jones’s sensitively muted trumpet and Douyé’s eloquent rendition.

Green Dolphin Street and the lesser-known, laid-back and Latinish Key Largo are fairly straight readings, as are I’m Confessin’ and the heartfelt Fly Me To The Moon (Beninese guitarist Lionel Loueke guesting), whilst Ray Noble’s The Very Thought Of You has a fragility conveyed by the singer and trio.

Douyé’s vocal style lends itself to the imaginative arrangements, on many of which she collaborated. Her pace and rhythm are a good fit, her articulation and phrasing shaping the lines. There’s an inconsistency at times though, as on Cherokee and on Speak Low, where her vocals, slightly behind the beat, sometimes seem strained in reaching the pitch. However, an enjoyable album which combines the traditions and on which the singer’s feeling for the lyrics shines through.

Discography
Cherokee; Speak Low; The Very Thought Of You; My Funny Valentine; I’ve Got You Under My Skin; Fly Me To The Moon; Afro Blue; It Don’t Mean A Thing; Green Dolphin Street; I’m Confessin’ That I Love You; Key Largo; Azure; Devil May Care; I’ve Got You Under My Skin (65.34)
Douyé (v, sèkèrè) with Benito Gonzalez, Elio Villafranco, Victor Silva, Walter John Bankovitch, Dapo Torimiro (p); Dokun Oke, Adesoji Odukogbe, Lionel Loueke (g); Dezron Douglas, Edward Perez, Billy Edwards, Fred Doumbe, Sezin Ahmet Turkmenoglu, Buster Williams (b); Corey Rawls, Charles Goold, Tosin Aribisala, Manas Itiene (d); Zem Audu, Rickey Woodard, Ron Blake (s); Zack Pitt Smith (ts); Roger Cox (bar); Itai Kris (f); Greg Glassman, Sean Jones, Brian Switzer (t); Freddie Hendrix (t, flh); Nadav Nirenberg, Marty Wehner (tb); Fola Abiala (talking d, pc). Miguel Valdes, Raul Ramirez (pc); Najite Agindotan (pc, sèkèrè). New York & California, 2023.
Rhombus Records GN7550-2