Bria Skonberg – With A Twist

Bria Skonberg "With A Twist"Yes, the overall retro feel of the album is charming. The musicianship throughout is fascinating, with a big horn section, strings and various star guests such as Sullivan Fortner on piano and Rhodes, Matt Wilson on drums, Scott Colley on bass, Aaron Goldberg on piano and Rhodes, Gil Goldstein on keys and accordion (he also arranged many of the tracks), Steve Cardenas on guitar, and Bashiri Johnson on percussion. And the repertoire fits the purpose. Bria to me sounds best on one of her three original pieces on her latest album, the light and bubbling “How I Know” (co-written with Sam Hollander) where she also displays her bright and precise tone on the trumpet. “With A Twist” is the fourth album by the Canadian trumpeter/vocalist/songwriter and her first for OKeh.

I’m not really resonating with her high-pitched voice which could have make room for more of her trumpet playing, like on the funnier pieces such as Valaida Snow‘s “High Hat, Trumpet, And Rhythm” where she also tries to scat. On “It’s Oh So Quiet”, she squeezes in some screams and shouts here and there. On “Dance Me To The End Of Love”, I can’t help thinking about the far superior version of Madeleine Peyroux. The mixing of Quincy Jones’ “Soul Bossa Nova” and “Alright, Okay, You Win” seems like a brilliant idea at first, but somehow the excitement blows out pretty soon. I really like the nostalgic “Back In Your Own Back Yard” with a swinging piano solo from Sullivan and Bria’s own muted trumpet solo echoing some of Louis Armstrong‘s passages. And she really should concentrate on writing more of her own material because with “Same Kind Of Crazy”, the second of her three original tracks (this one written with Jeff Cohen), she proves that she sounds much more interesting, sultry and fiery than on worn-out pieces like “My Baby Just Cares For Me”, “Sway”, or “Whatever Lola Wants”.

A nice treat is the intrumental cover version of Ed Sheeran’s “Thinking Out Loud” where the group is turning the pop piece into a spicy little gumbo. And with “Time To Go”, she lets us know that the twist which the album title suggests is not in her singing, but can rather be found in her trumpet playing and her songwriting as well.

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