I’ve previously praised the young Australian singer Sarah McKenzie for her last album on Impulse, We Could Be Lovers, have seen her perform live, and mentioned her in my Top 10 Jazz Covers of Pop songs. I was even able to exchange a couple of friendly words with her during the above mentioned concert.
So in a nutshell, I really like her. Hence, when I saw on Facebook that she is about to release a new album, I gotvery excited.
(Side note: following artists I like is one of the few useful purposes for me of Facebook. Why is it that in my generation the only people that regularly post updates are the ones you don’t care about? There seems to be some form of inverse correlation between posting activity and content value, with some rare exceptions)
Paris In the Rain (Impulse 2017)
So, now the album has been out for weeks, and I’m only just about now writing about it.
Why is that? Well, not because I didn’t listen to it enough. The thing is, I was really trying to like it, but in a way something was just a bit wrong. And I spent the last month trying to put my finger on it.
Is it the singing? Absolutely not, that’s beautiful as ever.
Is it the songs? No, we get standards, like Tea For Two, beautiful ballads, like Little Girl Blue, own compositions such as Paris in the Rain, see below (she also has 4 other own compositions on the album!).
Is it the musicians? Again, not really. Actually, they do play extremely well. Sarah and Impulse were able to assemble some great musicians here: Mark Whitfield und Romero Lubambo on guitar, Warren Wolf on the vibraphone, Reuben Rogers on bass, Gregory Hutchinson on drums.
The horns are excellent too, from Dominick Farinacci on the trumpet, Jamie Baum on the flute, to Scott Robinson and Ralph Moore on saxphone.
So what is it? It was only when I read that this album was produced again (like the previous one) by Brian Bacchus, when the penny dropped. It is just a bit too perfect! That may sound a bit silly, but the album could use a little bit of “dirtiness” to my ears.
Bacchus, while not a household name, has worked with some of the greatest names in Jazz (e.g. John Scofield). However, he also produced Norah Jones and Gregory Porter. Not that I’m comparing this album to Norah Jones, unlike her this is 100% Jazz, but you get the total perfection of a Norah Jones album. This really doesn’t fully replicate the full energy I felt when I saw her live. I’d really love it if her next album will be a live one!
So why I strongly encourage you to check out this album, I’d even more recommend you see her live. As mentioned, she’s on facebook, and here’s her website that has the tour dates.
My rating: 4 stars
You can find the album here (Qobuz) and here (Prostudiomasters).
5 thoughts on “Sarah McKenzie – Paris In The Rain – A Review (more or less)”
Enjoyed reading this. My experience with younger girl singers and some old guy singers as well is that what’s missing is not in the production but in life experience or maybe what you call “dirtiness”…Singing the words even with a good voice is not the same as feeling those words. When I studied jazz vocal, my coach who is a known jazz singer herself was quite clear on this point. “Sing the song to somebody you love and if you’re not in love, sing it to the person you want to love.” Makes all the difference. When I listen to live performances, I always look at the eyes. Life is in the eyes. Thanks for so many good posts…
Molly in San Diego (aka JazzCookie)
Molly, thanks for the nice feedback.
However, I wouldn’t even say it’s her voice, this is still what I like most about this album (and I’d definitely appreciate your feedback on the album with your vocal background).
It is the overall production, just a bit too perfect.
“Dirtiness” is maybe not the right word, but I was looking for something that is just a little bit less than perfect.
I found Sarah at your recommendation a few months back and waited until I could sample her via stream on this side of the Atlantic. She is undeniably talented as a singer and musician and I would spend my $$ to see her live. But I left wanting as well. It’s hard to differentiate your identity and product in her slice of the genre. It’s really hard. You know who did it for me? Cecile McLorin Salvant. You really, really have to stand out above and beyond like she has done on her albums. I feel strongly about Camila Meza also with her standing above many. You have to be so much more than polished and I think having a strong supporting cast of musicians helps because they will add a layer which is more than being perfect and the notes.
George, I understand your opinion. Sarah clearly follows the tradition of Ella Fitzgerald, and other traditional Jazz singers. That said, I think she does it extremely well.
And I fully agree on Cécile McLorin Salvant. She is an exceptional talent.
I don’t really have Camila on my radar screen. Will check her out.