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Naima Shamborguer: Naima (Shambones)

A review of the Detroit-based vocalist's sixth album as a leader

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Cover of Naima Shamborguer album Naima
Cover of Naima Shamborguer album Naima

Vocalist Naima Shamborguer has been an illuminating presence on Detroit’s jazz scene for decades, elevating standards with her richly textured voice and classically trained ear. Her albums have featured anthems from the American Songbook; on her self-titled sixth album, she dives deeper into that canon. This time out, she also pays tribute to John Coltrane, Miles Davis, and Freddie Hubbard.

She puts alluring lyrics to some of those musicians’ most recognizable compositions, such as Davis’ “Blue in Green,” which showcases her gift for arranging and draws the best from the brilliant pianist Ian Finkelstein, a frequent collaborator. Their chemistry is augmented by trombonist Steve Davis, whose solos are scene-stealers.

Shamborguer’s Pick and Roll band brims with some of Detroit’s most bragworthy talent, including bassist Marion Hayden, drummer Djallo Djakate, and saxophonists Wendell Harrison and Rafael Statin. On “Out of this World,” Statin’s blowing has a Coltrane-esque vibrancy. The album’s centerpiece is the Ahmad Jamal classic “Poinciana,” which showcases Shamborguer’s signature coloratura. (People familiar with her chops understand she prefers that style over scatting.) And she updates the Coltrane ballad “Naima” with a sultry, slightly upbeat groove, her velvety vocals melting like caramel all over Finkelstein’s fingers.

There are many reasons why Naima is a must-own recording. A glaring one is the new life she gives to definitive jazz staples like Johnny Griffin’s postbop ballad “When We Were One.” Shamborguer wrote lyrics for the ballad, turning it into a love letter to her husband.

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Veronica Johnson

Veronica Johnson is a freelance music writer from Detroit. She has written for Detroit-based publications Metro Times, Real Detroit Weekly, Model D, and The Michigan Historical Review, as well as the national jazz site The Jazz Line. Her work on Detroit hip-hop was published in the 2014 book A Detroit Anthology. She is also a board member of the Detroit Sound Conservancy, a grassroots Detroit music preservation organization.