Midway through “Here Today”, mezzo-soprano singer Alicia Hall Moran‘s new album, I can’t help but think about a well matured Italian Taleggio cheese with sun-dried tomatoes and herbs. “Two Things”, the almost 8-minute centerpiece track on her superb disc, sums up this genre-defying project which is both enchanting and revelatory. With the edgy guitar of Brandon Ross, her voice fits so perfectly good that you wouldn’t want the song to end. And what can you say about the mélange of George Bizet’s “Habanera” from “Carmen” and Stevie Wonder’s “Signed, Sealed, Delivered (I’m Yours)”? Fascinatingly trippy, the styles she merges here, together with her inimitable voice, simply grab me. Opera meets Motown. It works amazingly well.
On “Feeling Good”, the classic that is forever associated with Nina Simone, Alicia is accompanied by her husband, pianist Jason Moran, and a string trio, backing her overdubbed voice and leading the piece into new territory. It still has the urgency and power, but also showcases a certain beauty and softness. Her voice turns really soulful on her own “Not Today” and gives “God Bless The Child” a totally new color and aesthetic.
What also makes this album a pretty exciting affair is the fact that there are over half a dozen short pieces which run between around half a minute and slightly over two minutes. Be prepared for some disturbing, hilariously irritating stuff like on the noisy “Round About De Mountain” or some pretty introspective, folk-like sounds on “Who Are You?” which features Thomas Flippin on guitar and theorbo, a lute-like string instrument. The atmosphere on “Black Wall Street” sounds like a mix of Cassandra Wilson and Bill Frisell. “2 Train To Wall Street” has some Broadway characteristics and “Love Hurts” is a truly wonderful ballad. A highly entertaining set by a truly amazing artist.
You can catch Alicia Hall Moran and her “Here Today” project at the New England Conservatory March 26th-29th.