Darker Than Blue
Fay Victor is delectable. She is, in fact, a revelation. The Trinidad-born singer, who was raised in New York but now lives in Europe, is as close to a latterday Billie Holiday as you're likely to get. Actually, her intonation invokes Holiday but her phrasing is more reminiscent of Carmen McRae. Victor's latest album, Darker Than Blue, was recorded just over two years ago in Amsterdam. Borrowing both its title and spirit from a Curtis Mayfield poem ("We the people who are darker than blue, are we gonna stand around this town and let what others say come true?"), it is a heady mix of covers, originals and nods to her jazz heroes. Charles Mingus is saluted twice with an ethereal "Eclipse" and an ebullient "Strollin' (Nostalgia in Times Square)," and Eddie Harris is honored with a gritty "In the City," significantly enriched by Victor's street-smart lyrics. The three new tracks, all co-written by Victor and Jochem van Dijk, are uniformly dynamic, particularly the clever "Zootoon." As for the quartet of covers, "My Reverie" is refreshingly peppery, "What a Little Moonlight Can Do" bows to Holiday without aping her timeless rendition and Victor's "Star Eyes" ranks among the finest I've heard. The only disappointment, and it's a minor one, is "Detour Ahead," which seems unduly hampered by a heavy-handed arrangement.