Reviewed by Blair Greenberg, March 3rd, 2016
A fine second album from a young up and coming jazz singer, who isn’t afraid to broaden her scope and explore different genres with a kick-ass band.
It’s great to see a new generation of Australian jazz singers coming through. Elly Hoyt hails from Tasmania but moved to Brisbane in 2006 to study at the Queensland Conservatorium. This is her second album and she has assembled a team of seasoned musicians to complement a combination of standards and four original tunes. Most of the tracks feature a sparse piano, bass, drums line-up, which allows the musicians room to move. Violin and cello are added for two more tracks. The crack rhythm section of Darryn Furrugia on drums and Jonathan Zion on bass lays down a solid foundation with a rock and funky edge at times, but still swings on the jazzier tunes. Scott Griffiths plays great piano and also has to be applauded for the superb arrangements on these songs.
Although this is Elly Hoyt’s album as the singer, it really is a band album as the musicians contribute equally to the overall quality. This is also reflected in the mix which places the vocal in with the piano. Stylistically, the songs are varied, but with a strong bluesy jazz influence throughout.
The album opens with a bang with the McCartney classic, Blackbird, straying far from the original with an unexpected bluesy feel. Cole Porter’s Easy to Love provides an opportunity for some hard swinging scat.
Nature Boy is such an open song in its construction that it offers many opportunities for exploration, which is why it has become a standard in the jazz canon. This arrangement sheds an interesting new light on the song but still keeps the mysterious quality that Eden Ahbez ‘borrowed’ from an old Yiddish melody.
The original songs are fine work and sit happily with the standards. I couldn’t help but hear a Joni Mitchell influence in these songs. Our Little Boy is a touching homage to a young child, Sink or Swim and On the Other Side are good songs but might have benefited by a lighter touch with less emphasis on the heavy snare backbeat.
It’ll Rise Again is an arrangement of a Peter Sculthorpe song with lyrics by Tony Morphett. Not normally heard in a jazz context but works well here.
My Baby Just Cares for Me is so identified with Nina Simone that it’s difficult to put a new stamp on it without the obvious comparisons, but this version moves away from the walking bass and gives it a groovy bossa-nova lightness. The title of the album Oranges and Sunshine is also the name of the last track, and features the didgeridoo of William Barton, giving the song a plaintive quality.
Elly Hoyt is a fine singer and songwriter who is not afraid to take risks. Her singing is complemented by excellent musicians not restricted by categories, who can rock out or swing as needed.
The album was beautifully recorded by Tim Symonds at ABC Studios, Melbourne and equally well-mixed and mastered by Ricki Rae.
There is much joy to be had on this album and I look forward to future offerings.
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