Two years ago, newcomer Nicky Schrire made an auspicious (if underappreciated) debut with Freedom Flight, a collection of jazz standards, pop covers and originals all supported by a full band. For her sophomore release, again spanning standards, pop and self-penned material, Schrire opts for far leaner settings, just voice and piano. Two of the finest players in jazz, Gil Goldstein and Gerald Clayton, join her for four tracks each. The remaining four find her partnered with emerging Cuban pianist and film composer Fabian Almazan, perhaps best known for his work in Terence Blanchard’s group.
The London-born, Cape Town-raised Schrire has studied with a spectrum of top vocalists, though the influence of teachers Norma Winstone and Kate McGarry is most evident in her pensive yet ethereal style. Goldstein and Clayton favor minimalist accompaniment that is the epitome of understated ingenuity. Almazan employs a far broader palette, propelling Schrire’s “A Song for a Simple Time” with jagged waves and, step by step with Schrire, boldly ascending through ebony night skies on her bold interpretation of Massive Attack’s “Teardrop.” Equally interesting are her multitracked chasse with Clayton through “Here Comes the Sun” and, in a nod to her South African roots, her gentle, swaying teaming with Goldstein on bassist Victor Ntoni’s “Seliyana.”