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Bria Skonberg: Nothing Never Happens (Self-released)

A review of the seventh album from the vocalist and trumpeter

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Bria Skonberg, Nothing Never Happens
The cover of Nothing Never Happens by Bria Skonberg

Vocalist and trumpeter Bria Skonberg is a study in evolution. With her clear alto voice and agreeable trumpet playing, she appeals to jazz and pop fans alike. Her residency at Joe’s Pub in New York was the perfect showcase for new material, where the crowd is as appreciative of Monk as they are of Bowie. Skonberg recalls a different era, when all singers crooned over a jazz pulse. Her seventh album is an amalgam of pop-flavored jazz and blues, from gritty opener “Blackout” and rhythmic single “Villain Vanguard” to a slick cover of Sonny Bono’s “Bang Bang” that Peggy Lee would love. Skonberg matches the Beatles with Duke Ellington on “Blackbird Fantasy,” merging the McCartney classic with Duke’s “Black and Tan Fantasy.” Clever instrumentation makes the most of a polished arrangement, as Skonberg sings the broken-winged lyric over a plaintive backing.

Unfortunately, cloying blues guitar and a thumping rock groove turn serious ambition into sugary commercial production. The album nosedives further with Skonberg’s “What Now,” a doo-woppy 6/8 ballad, and her version of Queen’s “I Want to Break Free,” which singlehandedly establishes a new marketing category: smooth rock (or is it the old yacht rock?). A fine player and a good singer, Skonberg may find that nothing never happens when you straddle a musical fence.

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Listen to “Blackout” by Bria Skonberg.

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Ken Micallef

Ken Micallef was once a jazz drummer; then he found religion and began writing about jazz rather than performing it. (He continues to air-drum jazz rhythms in front of his hi-fi rig and various NYC bodegas.) His reportage has appeared in Time Out, Modern Drummer, DownBeat, Stereophile, and Electronic Musician. Ken is the administrator of Facebook’s popular Jazz Vinyl Lovers group, and he reviews vintage jazz recordings on YouTube as Ken Micallef Jazz Vinyl Lover.