Waitin' for Spring
What muscular chops! French-born with Greek and African roots, Ms. Kontomanou is huffing and puffing and will inevitably blow down the door to stardom in the arduous field of jazz singing. Completely self-taught, Kontomanou has been negotiating the minefields of jazzdom since the late ‘90s, paying her dues by guesting on 11 albums. Now virtually overnight, she has released her fourth solo album—the first that displays her writing talents. There’s no holding her back, and rightfully so. She has the timbre of a trumpet, a solid sense of timing and phrasing and a range as unlimited as her future. Regarding intonation, listen to ”Duke Ellington’s Sound of Love,” music and lyrics by Charles Mingus. Then check her own tune, curiously titled “Ayanna Left New Orleans and Went to Mexico.” Even more curiously, she sings the latter wordlessly, often in unison with or echoing the fluid soprano saxophonist Sam Newsome. Highlights include “We’ll Be Together Again,” enhanced by sensitive comping from guitarist John Scofield, and “The Good Life.” On both tunes Kontomanou reveals a rich vibrato and warm low tones reminiscent of Sarah Vaughan.