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Pucci Amanda Jhones
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Sweet Dreams
Sweet Dreams

The story is that Ms. Jhones arrived home from an engagement in Timbuktu or Brobdingnag, or some such unlikely venue, tired, but impatient to keep the impetus of her incipient career in forward mode. So, as soon as she hit her front door, she dropped her luggage in the foyer and raced to the telephone to round up some musicians of her acquaintance for a recording date. This CD is the result, and due to the urgency with which she approached the taping, and allowing for certain scheduling pressures, such as those impinging upon Kenny Barron who had no time to rehearse, this was a case in which the participants simply came, saw and, in their fashion, conquered the music at one extended session. That the music is as good as it is must be largely credited to Ms. Jhones who, not only applied her silky alto instrument to these eleven strangely mixed vehicles, but also fashioned all the arrangements except for 'Harlem" and "Afternoon." Strangely mixed because the inclusion of a pop trifle like "call Me" and a pop cliche such as "Day Will Come" might suggest that she has some unresolved issues with regard to a pop/soul/Jazz path a la Gloria Lynne or the current Ernestine Anderson. Methinks that would be a mistake, because the rest of the program indicates that Pucci Jhones is much better than that. Her improvisery skills allow her to bend meter and melodic line, and she has the good sense (and taste) to eschew the deconstruction of familiar tunes as do, say, Betty Carter and Sheila Jordan. Thus, this singer slows "Day By Day" down to a walk, and wrings from its very natural lyric flow considerably more depth than it usually affords. Her "Sunday Kind" and "Poinciana" are only superficially conventional. Listen carefully and you will note the subtle adjustments in accentuation that make these very personal interpretations. Terence Conley's arrangement of "Afternoon" makes use of a rhythmic tension not ordinarily associated with the song. Jhones zeros right in and takes advantage of the opportunity offered. "Trouble" and "Until' are ringers of a sort. Perhaps they come from some reservoir of pop flotsam in which I have never drifted, which in the case of the former I seriously doubt, since its narrative stream is both coherent and literate, but here they are both used to optimum effect. 'Trouble' gives Jhones a setting in which to show she knows how to torch with the best, and "Until' a chance to show that she can overcome the banal with a confidence born of a wholesome dash of chutzpah. If the irony intended in slowing "I Got" down to imply the rhythm becomes a drag about half way into its 7 plus minutes, I'm ready to forgive and forget, because the lady's willingness to take risks should not be discouraged. She comes up a winner often enough. Barron, of course, is the bulwark of the accompaniment, with his responsive and inventive fills under-scoring the date's Jazz integrity. Kenyatta Beasley also deserves special mention. I've heard him only once before, on an Oliver Lake mit strings CD, and I am given to understand that he currently maintains some sort of student status. His muted and open horn, wherever they appear in support of Ms. Jhones, are well placed and tasty. Overall, the CD leaves the impression that we are witnessing what could be the birth of a major Jazz voice.

-- Alan Bargebuhr

Pucci Amanda Jhones is a remarkable singer and this is a notable debut. Obviously, Ms. Jhones didn't just step off the boat, you can hear that in the conviction of her work. But even so, this is her debut recording and it would take some research to find one that matches the display of remarkable assurance and the clear signs of individuality of delivery and style that are in evidence. I love how she takes liberties with tempo and line, while maintaining the integrity of composition. And there's no ambiguity in her unique delivery or her sincerity. To me, it's quite clear Ms. Pucci Amanda Jhones is the real thing, a natural, and we should celebrate this gift to our ears and sensibilities.

-- Bob Rusch, Producer

Vocalist Pucci Amanda Jhones is backed by a group of eight musicians, including pianist Kenny Barron, for this delightful debut. Jhones sings with a deep, sultry voice, covering such popular tunes as "Day by Day," "Red Top," and "I Got Rhythm." Her mature style incorporates some of the inflections of the jazz masters. Her impressive command of the idiom shows an affinity for bending tones, slightly shifting tempos, and light swing. While little of her work is original, her pleasing, controlled voice catalyzes the band, particularly when she lets loose, as she does to great effect on "Red Top." Pianist Barron is in top form, as usual, and adds considerably to the mix. Trumpeter Kenyatta Beasley, tenor saxophonist Karl Martin Almquist, alto saxophonist Casey Benjamin, and drummer Dwayne "Cook" Broadnax share the limelight.

-- Steve Loewy

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