Resilience is not only the title of singer Rondi Charleston‘s new album, but also the first release for the Resilience Music Alliance which she co-founded with her husband, political/social activist and art patron Steve Ruchevsky. Rondi’s six own compositions show a depth and maturity that is a rare breed these days. “Around The Corner” might as well be from the Great American Songbook.
Rondi’s charming voice which does have some Stephanie Mills quality in its color and diction, has amazed me on her numerous earlier albums (“Love Is The Thing”, co-produced by Peter Eldridge, 2004, “In My Life”, her live album from Dizzy’s in New York, 2008, or “Who Knows Where The Time Goes”, 2009). I much prefer her voice on her own, original compositions, like the opening title track, than on standards like “Joy Spring” where she does some scatting which I still can not dig.
Pianist Brandon McCune has an overwhelming solo on “Scrapbook”, as has guitarist Dave Stryker, who also serves as musical director and co-writer. Both seem to gel with Rondi’s voice so harmonically perfect and really fit well with her “just close your eyes and feel the joy” verse towards the end. Trumpeter Alex Norris graces a warm and tender “On The Sunny Side Of The Street” where Rhondi also shows off her light vibrato which thankfully isn’t over the top, but rather has just about the right nuance.
The letting-go character of “Just A Heartbeat” is beautifully executed over a nicely shuffling groove which stays in your head for a while. “Evidence” is a thought on Al Gore’s film “An Inconvenient Truth” and convincingly plays with overdubbed voices and features the beautiful voice of Alex Norris again on trumpet. It’s a pretty elegant tune with cool drops here and there from both Dave and Brandon. And “Ive Got The World On A String” somehow really fits the program here and gets a new meaning among the themes.
There’s a special tune called “Refugee”, echoing the ongoing problem that many European countries face at present as well. It’s about a girl who escaped by boat from Syria while the rest of her family perished and is based on a story in the New York Times. More elegance found here. “A Healing Song”, written by Eli Yamin, Director of the Jazz Power Initiative, features saxophonist Tim Ries and closes out this satisfying album on an upbeat, positive note.
Rondi plays the South Jazz Club in Philadelphia on December 13th.