It’s finally here on vinyl: singer Judi Jackson‘s brilliant “Grace”. The Virginia-born singer, who now resides in London, could be heard on albums by Snarky Puppy, Ashley Henry, and Greg Spero, released an EP in 2017 and a live album in 2018, comes up now with an album of songs which were recorded between 2019 and 2021 in London and Milan and released originally in late October on all digital platforms.
The Jazz FM vocalist of the year 2020 has written or co-written all of the 15 tracks here and gets help from Blue Lab Beats (also coming out with their new Blue Note LP “Motherland Journey” next week), Benny Atlas, and the legendary Arthur Verocai.
The fantastic opening of “Strawberry Lady”, the perfect mixture of jazz and neo-soul, reminds me a bit of earliest Jill Scott re: mood and atmosphere. Judi’s voice is extremely versatile. She can sound like an angel, she exudes amazing warmth, but she can also be pretty cool and nonchalant. She has this very sympathetic vibrato, probably best conveyed on “Crashing Down”, which already came out as a single. With the Blue Lab Beats duo, she turns to electronica meets hip-hop on their collaborative tune “Space Gyal”, including spacy sax and flute work.
Judi stays away from becoming just another neo-soul turns jazz singer with the alternative pop piece “Magic”, as if Stevie Nicks meets Jamie Cullum. It is a bit distracting at first, but really gains momentum after several spins. The absolutely beautiful “Sunrise”, the track she’s worked on with Brazilian songwriter, conductor, and arranger Arthur Verocai, actually reminds me of the latest coup by Lady Blackbird. The strings reflect something like a dogged persistence and give the track sweetness and vulnerability. The mellow flow continues on “River” and we get a pretty ethereal “Spring” with lots of reverb and Judi cooing over some thickly layered beats.
The versatility continues with a rock-induced “Blue Baby” and I really like her “Just The Two Of Us” sort-of cover version on “Two Of Us”, where she teams up with UK singer Benny Atlas. There is also a pretty dramatic, bluesy, and bombastic “In The Night”, and a soothing, smooth “Over The Moon” with Judi taking full control . Which she does very convincingly and authoritatively on the album closer and title track, another svelte beauty.
Please be aware that the LP version only includes nine songs instead of the album’s total of 15 which I think is a shame, especially in these times when vinyl is seeing an amazing uptick.