A powerful blending of savory gospel lament and mystical African spice, “Grace” stands as the fulcrum of Carmen Lundy’s forthcoming Soul to Soul, where everything comes together in one burst of nervy experimentalist classicism. Those words don’t go together, of course — unless you’re Carmen Lundy, a boundary-bursting renaissance woman in the age of one-trick ponies.
Here, she joins forces with Simphiwe Dana, a vocalist from South Africa, to tell the turbulently resonant tale of a race torn from its homeland, sentenced to a life to enslavement. Dana initially overheard Lundy while she tried to work the song out on guitar — yes, Lundy is a vocalist who also plays, and writes, and paints — and something electric happened. Dana began to improvise in her native tongue, bolstering the melody with a sense of historical import, even as Lundy’s heartfelt contributions completed this emotional gestalt.
Mixing and matching isn’t exactly new with Lundy, a singer who brings in the crispness of Ella Fitzgerald and the dark shadings of Sarah Vaughan but also the back-pew force of Aretha Franklin and the silky-smooth romanticism of Dionne Warwick. And all of that is on display in “Grace,” but with the additional element of Dana’s incredibly descriptive cries. Together, they make something brand new, but at the same time utterly ageless.
Soul to Soul, due on September 23, 2014 from Afrasia Productions, also finds Lundy working with the likes of Randy Brecker, Geri Allen, Bennie Maupin, Warren Wolf, Ada Rovatti and Patrice Rushen, though the initial songs were built around demos that featured Lundy on every instrument. Later, she added strings and additional music, even as her regular rhythm section arrived to update some individual parts. Lundy ultimately played guitar on every track, piano and Fender Rhodes on most of them, and drums on two songs.
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