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June 2003

Lenora Zenzalai Helm
Voice Paintings
Midlantic

Aiming to dissect "the language of color and sound," Lenora Zenzalai Helm crafts a vibrant portrait of her artist father on Voice Paintings (MidLantic). A multihued masterpiece, Helm's most personal album to date is also her most dynamically diverse. Her boldly vivid veneration extends from the hymnlike purity of Nina Simone's "Images" and trembling adoration of "The Nearness of You" to the stormy turbulence of Stanley Cowell's "Equipoise" and the tribal inferno of the self-penned "Exchange." Elsewhere, Helm echoes the swinging lilt of Nancy Wilson on a shimmering "I'm Gonna Lock My Heart and Throw Away the Key," then mixes a deeply sorrowful "My Man's Gone Now" with a dreamy "The Man I Love." Most glorious of all, though, is Billy Strayhorn's "A Flower Is a Lovesome Thing," shaped by former Bobby McFerrin colleague Marlon Saunders into four minutes of exquisitely layered a cappella that, as was Helm's intent, tenderly echo the refracted beauty of Joni Mitchell's "Shadows and Light."

Originally published in June 2003
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