Check the Box
A moderately engaging blend of instrumentals and vocals, Coupe Franks’ vocal debut works best when the leader goes Latinate and uptempo. “Exposure” and “Exposure Duo,” which bracket this well-meaning disk, demonstrate how Coupe Franks’ trumpet prowess exceeds her vocal ability.
Still, Franks can be an expressive singer: the funky, hopeful title track spotlights her small, sultry voice, more supple than that of Summer Corrie, who vocalizes on the hearty, if clichéd, “Be the People,” and “Love Storm,” a stiff tune with an inadvertently oxymoronic title. The band’s attitude can’t be faulted: Coupe Franks and her colleagues, particularly the inventive pianist Luis Perdomo, approach music with passion and zest.
Those figure heavily in “Mass,” a coolly symmetrical hard bop track featuring Coupe Franks’ hot, muted trumpet and precise work by Perdomo, bassist Mary Ann McSweeney and drummer Richie Morales. “Mass” and the funky “Starting All Over,” the latter featuring Coupe Franks’ sauciest vocal, perkiest trumpet and Perdomo’s cool B3, suggest this talented band leader should loosen up more.
Coupe Franks has clearly absorbed influences spanning Chet Baker and the Meters. It’s time to shed the earnestness, however. “Check the Box” is pleasant and occasionally powerful, but feels like it was recorded for friends. More outreach next time, please.