After more than a quarter-century with various vocal groups, including the fine, retro-fitted female trio String of Pearls, jazz educator and vocal therapist Holli Ross has pulled an Annie Ross and delivered her first solo album. Ross’ voice suggests a star sapphire: deep, indigo-hued and immaculately pure, yet shot through with a captivating smokiness.
She opens, alongside pianist Ted Rosenthal, with a soft “Wedding Bell Blues” that illuminates Laura Nyro’s yearning lyric far better than the famous Fifth Dimension version. From there she moves in various directions with equal skill and ease, dipping into the standards bag for a peppy “Pick Yourself Up,” a lightly frothed “Lucky to Be Me,” a sultry “Do Nothing Till You Here From Me” that stops just short of bump-and-grind, and a scorching “Alone Together” superbly propelled by drummer Matt Wilson.
Widening her net, she partners with bassist Rufus Reid for a boppin’ ride through Oscar Pettiford’s “Tricotism” and gently unfolds British tunesmith Carroll Coates’ clever “You’ll See.” Ross also leaves room to exercise her lyric-writing proficiency. She unites with Reid and String of Pearls mate Jeanne O’Connor to shape “Elegy,” a feverish adieu to a failed love affair, and with Brazilian trumpeter Claudio Roditi on the bossa-fied “Forty Three After” and slyly swinging “Café Suite.”