Though Jana Herzen is best known in the jazz community as founder and president of Motéma Music, currently home to the likes of René Marie and Gregory Porter, the respected label was actually established so that Herzen could release her debut album, Soup’s on Fire, a fine folk-jazz blending. Now, 10 years and some 100 Motéma discs later, she has at last found time for her sophomore effort.
Featuring Herzen on vocals and guitar, Passion of a Lonely Heart is divided between her own compositions and well-chosen covers, including a reflective “Spain (I Remember)” and kittenish “My Baby Just Cares for Me.” For assistance, she looks no further than Motéma’s talent roster, choosing bassist Charnett Moffett as her co-producer and sole companion. Though several vocalists have traveled the voice-and-bass route, Sheila Jordan has raised the bar highest, best demonstrating how intimately powerful the combination can be. Herzen has no doubt studied Jordan. Though her choices are seldom as pointedly brilliant (or as jagged), she is a similarly sharp interpreter.
Best of all, Herzen’s seven originals reflect a refreshing maturity and a rare narrative richness, ranging from the sun-dappled passion of “Bali Holiday” and sly maneuvering of “Secrets Are Safe With Me” to the gentle heartbreak of both “Night Blooming Jasmine” and the title track. For his part, Moffett wisely respects the boss, ably and imaginatively supporting but never overwhelming