She is not copying the great Miss Nancy Wilson nor does she want to follow in Wilson’s footsteps: for her fourth CD, singer Cynthia Felton, who is also the founder of the Ethnomusicology Library of American Heritage, pays tribute to one of the best storytellers in music her way. And trying to choose 11 songs from an output that consists of over 50 albums is not an easy task.
Felton chose five songs from one of Wilson’s earliest, and most revered album, the 1962 Nancy Wilson/Cannonball Adderley LP which featured the timeless “Save Your Love For Me” which Felton does here in a more subdued mood. Her impressive four-octave voice is probably best heard on another song from that particular album, “(I’m Afraid) The Masquerade Is Over” which she arranges with a lot of extra spice, like the tenor sax of Ernie Watts for example or the twirling piano of John Beasley.
She uses top musicians throughout the album, like Cyrus Chestnut, Patrice Rushen, Terri Lyne Carrington, Wallace Roney, or Jeff “Tain” Watts, recorded her vocals at the famed Capitol Studios in Hollywood and has the legendary Al Schmitt on the mixing board.
One of Miss Nancy Wilson‘s signature songs, “Guess Who I Saw Today”, is done here with beautiful support by harpist Carol Robbins on the opening verse and shows again that Felton is no mere imitator, but truly has her own vision and style to celebrate the music icon. This is also evident on the closing track here: “I Wish You Love” is done in a veritable swinging version with extra nice percussion by Munyoungo Jackson.
You can also hear influences from R&B (“West Coast Blues”) and Gospel here (the opening 35 second tribute to her ancestors) and no, I have to admit that I still don’t like scat singing but luckily, she stays away from it for most of the songs. After her dedications to Oscar Brown, Jr. and Duke Ellington and another Jazz standard album, this is the most satisfying Cynthia Felton record to date.