It’s Carmen’s 65th birthday today. Happy birthday! I still remember her wonderful concert in Vienna a few years ago where she appeared with Patrice Rushen. I was lucky enough to meet her for a lengthy interview the day after the show. Carmen has released her latest work “Modern Ancestors” last week and it starts out with some interesting synth work in tandem with her strong vocals on “A Time For Peace” which also has some of her wonderful background vocal arrangement and brilliant acoustic piano work by Julius Rodriguez.
Andrew Renfroe plays some bluesy guitar licks on the strong Gospel-influenced “Burden Down Burden Down”. And the variations continue with the Latin-tinged “Ola De Calor”, sung in Spanish and English and featuring sizzling percussion work from maestro, or maestress for that matter, Mayra Casales who has regularly contributed to Carmen’s work since “Good Morning Kiss” from 1985. But the tune is not really traditionally Latin-induced, but rather has a pretty funky and soulful beat underneath too. “Ola De Calor” means “Heatwave”, and the fire here is burning slowly but surely, not destroying everything around it.
Carmen wrote “Flowers And Candles” after the terrible terrorist attacks in Paris in 2015. It’s a wonderful ballad, steeped in classic vocal jazz tradition and strengthening Carmen’s vulnerability when sharing such a sad story. But she can handle satire and wit, too as witnessed on “Jazz On TV” about the fact that there is far too few jazz on media outlets. Crisp vocal work on this one. Very cool indeed. Her ability to write beautiful ballads is once again stressed on “Meant For Each Other”. There is a lot of soul and emotion on this one, making it one of the highlights of the set.
The longest track on offer here is the 9-minute plus “Eye Of The Storm”, inspired by her home turf in Florida where huge storms seem to be almost routine these days. It conjures up a lot of drama and suspense and I’m not sure towards the end if there’s a healing aftermath or not. She somehow leaves it open to the listener. But maybe the healing comes with the next track, appropriately titled “Clear Blue Skies” and inspired by the wonderful work of pianist Geri Allen. There is also a very open “Affair Brazil” with great drum work by Terreon Gully who seems to have a lot of fun with the track. The track and album also features Kenny Davis on electric bass, Curtis Lundy on acoustic bass, and Kassa Overall on drums. “Affair Brazil” stays experimental, free-flowing, living-in-the-moment.
The album ends on yet another beautiful note: “Still” is one of those Carmen Lundy love songs which graciously stays away from kitsch, but rather has enough rough edges to keep you immersed in the wide-open spirit that is Carmen’s universe.
Carmen plays the San Francisco Jazz’s Joe Henderson Lab November 14th-17th, the Arts Garage in Delray Beach, Florida, December 14th, and New York’s Jazz Standard December 19th-22nd with Matthew Whitaker on piano together with her band from the album.