Andrea Claburn – Nightshade – [Distr. by CD Baby], 52:07 ***:

A high calibre of  creativity. 

(Andrea Claburn – vocals; Matt Clark – piano & Fender Rhodes; Sam Bevan – acoustic & electric bass; Alan Hall – drums; John Santos – percussion; Terrence Brewer – acoustic & electric guitars; Erik Jekabson – trumpet & flugelhorn;  Kasey Knudson – alto saxophone; Teddy Raven – tenor saxophone; Rob Ewing – trombone; Mads Tolling – violin & viola; Joseph Hébert – cello)

Andrea Claburn, with her debut self-produced album Nightshade, has decided to “tilt at windmills”. But unlike Don Quixote, who mistakenly thought windmills were giants, Claburn is embarking on the long road to success. To complete the Quixote analogy, as described in the 1964 musical Man From La Mancha, she will “dream the impossible dream”. In her case, it might very well come true.

Starting with a strong musical education, as well as a grounded and assured voice, Claburn uses these talents to  explore a collection of original pieces, along with some covers from the  jazz repertoire. While one might quibble with the inventiveness and sophistication of her own compositions,  she is at home with her other choices.

The opening track, “Lionheart”, is musical statement with a powerhouse rhythm propelling the melody forward. While the lyrics have a heroic theme, they do not lend themselves to any kind of breezy repetition. “Bird On A Wire” is not Leonard Cohen’s Bird On The Wire and the difference is more than just a substitution of the determinant “a” for “the”.  While the tune hums along, with both guitarist Terrence Brewer and tenor saxophonist Teddy Raven offering smart solos, the Claburn lyrics make one long for Cohen’s more interesting version.

Tracks 4 through 8 inclusive are covers of material from various popular and jazz sources, where the songs bear the imprimatur of the original lyricist. The exception is Duke Ellington’s “Infinite Wisdom (Echoes Of Harlem)” where Claburn has penned the words. The arrangement on this Ellington number reverberates with a bluesy construct, and Claburn, for this particular number wrote lyrics that were compatible with the underlying melody.

As Claburn explores the remaining standards, she does so confident in her interpretation of the material, and in full command of her voice. Backed by the sympathetic  trio of pianist Matt Clark, bassist Sam Bevan, and drummer Alan Hall, Claburn delivers vulnerable reading of Bill Evans’ “Turn Out The Stars” with Gene Lees’ insightful lyrics. That old standby “After You’ve Gone” is taken hold by Claburn with a ska-influenced beat, that gives trumpeter Erik Jekabson several choruses of New Orleans-flavoured inspiration.

Betty Carter’s “I Can’t Help It” is a burner with Claburn’s voice in an earthy vein.This version is enhanced with some delightful muted trumpet from Erik Jekabson and a couple of tasty piano runs from Matt Clark. All in all, it appears that Andrea Claburn is smartly focused, and with the appropriate material conveys a high calibre of creativity.

TrackList: Lionheart; Bird On A Wire; My Favourite Flavor; Infinite Wisdom (Echoes Of Harlem); Turn Out The Stars; After You’ve Gone; Skylark; I Can’t Help It; The Fall Of Man; Daybreak; Colors Of Light; Steal Away

—Pierre Giroux