Vocalist and pianist Kandace Springs has recorded twelve songs of her idols for her third project “The Women Who Raised Me” on Blue Note Records. The swinging “Devil May Care”, inspired by Diana Krall’s version, features some very lively and astute bass playing by Christian McBride and subtle drum work by Clarence Penn. Kandace shows some of her raspier side on this version which suits her pretty well I think. For “Angel Eyes”, inspired by Ella Fitzgerald, she ended up in a duet with Norah Jones on vocals and piano. They both gel amazingly well and Kandace plays some bluesy Wurlitzer on the piece, aided and abetted by the great Steve Cardenas on guitar.
Larry Klein produced again (he was also behind the desk for her debut in 2016) and more special guests come along, like David Sanborn with a very urgent and pleading alto sax solo on “I Put A Spell On You”, inspired by Nina Simone. Sade is the inspiration for “Pearls”, originally recorded on her 1992 album “Love Deluxe”. Sublime electric piano chords comfort Kandace’s vocals and trumpeter Avishai Cohen also caresses her very deep and distinctive interpretation. A haunting and introspective version, close to the original in spirit, but further enhancing it with some colorization here and there.
I was never a fan of Lauryn Hill, her “Ex-Factor” is a million miles more effective and subtle in Kandace’s version. Great drum work by Clarence, electric piano and guitar complement the ambiance which stays pretty cool and elegant at the same time, making this very soulful midtempo gem one of the highlights of the set. Some flute touches, courtesy of Elena Pinderhughes, are added to the mix. “I Can’t Make You Love Me”, always one of my favorites, was actually produced by Don Was (now president of Blue Note Records) for Bonnie Raitt’s 1991 LP “Luck Of The Draw”. Kandace does a very solid and beautiful rendition. Her clear, pure and almost humble style also graces “Gentle Rain”, inspired by Astrud Gilberto. Scott Colley’s bass is thick and majestic in the background and Chris Potter adds some of his bluesy and powerful lines on sax to the proceedings.
About Carmen McRae, Kandace says: “I’ve never heard anybody hit a note that’s so behind the beat, it’s in the next bar”. She does a very cool and sophisticated late-night club version of “Solitude”, never really ringing in some of Carmen’s prowess, but rather making it her own vehicle instead. There are some sexy vibrato moments when she sings “so sad”. Interestingly, Kandace chose “The Nearness Of You” and the Norah Jones version as her inspiration. And even though she once again comes up with a faultless performance, this version somehow left me cold. The ballad mood continues for “What Are You Doing The Rest Of Your Life?”. And this is where it becomes dangerous for me because there are some songs which already have their definitive interpretation. Kandace cites Dusty Springfield as her inspiration for this rendition and I think falls flat on this one. There is an amazing version by Abbey Lincoln with Hilton Ruiz and Archie Shepp on her LP “Painted Lady” (1987).
But I really like her subdued, almost crying version of Roberta Flack’s “Killing Me Softly With His Song”, arranged with some surprising little twists, again with a warm Rhodes cushion and Elena’s elegant flute, and some of the most heartfelt singing on the album. I can’t find any info on the arrangers, only on the producer and executive producers: Carl Sturken and Evan Rogers who were responsible for a lot of the 80s soul albums by Evelyn “Champagne” King, Jennifer Holliday, Stephanie Mills, Cheryl Lynn, or Meli’sa Morgan.
Kandace concludes her highly entertaining set on her own with an eerie version of Billie Holiday’s “Strange Fruit”. She is supposed to play Berlin (Quasimodo, May 7th) and various other cities throughout Europe in May so here’s hoping that we can get together again soon for some live music.