As the backing vocalists for Jarrod Lawson, I’ve seen both Tahirah Memory and Molly Tentarelli on various stages in Berlin, Paris, Rotterdam, and New York. And maybe because Jarrod is still busy with the production of his own next album, it was the perfect timing to come out with her debut. Molly Tentarelli‘s family was in the music business in Los Angeles and they later moved to Portland in Oregon where she met Jarrod. She grew up listening to Joni Mitchell, Steely Dan, Todd Rundgren, Laura Nyro and Rickie Lee Jones.
But there is yet another inspiration which shines through on her self-titled debut album: some of the tracks remind me of ex-Matt Bianco singer Basia, not only because of the often Latin and Brazilian-flavored rhythms, but because of her vocal phrasing, too. Best example is probably the album’s opening track “You Don’t Know A Thing”, which comes across like a mild spring breeze, an easy on the ear tune, perfectly produced and with the help of renowned aces like bassist Will Lee and drummer Vinnie Colaiuta. And it’s also the way her backing vocals are arranged at the start and the chorus of “Lalala” (the first single) which heavily reminds me of the former Matt Bianco vocalist. Dave Weckl is responsible here for the voluminous drumming and we also get percussionist Pedrito Martinez.
Molly’s godfather Mark Hudson asked his neighbor David Sanborn if he might be interested and so the sax meister ended up on three tracks on the album. His tone and approach are still inimitable, like on the light and fancy “Am I Right For You”. It suits the overall atmosphere well to change tempo from time to time and even though “Casual” is only slightly slower than the majority on offer, it just feels good to take a breather. Another nice little variety is the addition of Chris Botti‘s trumpet on “Something Good” on an otherwise relatively innocent track. Molly sounds best when the tempo is slowed down or when things turn to blue like on “Believe In Me” (featuring Timothy B. Schmit on bass). Hers is a very clear, light and airy voice and she certainly recognizes where and how she sounds the most effective.
I think it’s on the very high-pitched, head-voiced cut “What Are We Doing” where her deficiency is capitalized. It just sounds a bit awkward even though she matches with Sanborn’s high-pitched sax. Her Nyro/Jones moment comes with the Rickie Lee Jones-penned “Young Blood”. The combination of her carefree vocal and the beautiful composition seems like the perfect fit for Molly. That’s what I’d like to hear more from her. Oli Rockberger’s keys on the album’s closer “Why You Gotta Do Me” is also a promising treat.