Anaïs Reno, Lovesome Thing Review
by Ferell Aubre
Anaïs Reno is a New York City-based jazz singer making a sound that is getting noticed for her interpretation of jazz and the Great American Songbook. Reno received the Julie Wilson Award, won the Inspiration Award at the Songbook Academy Competition; the Adela and Larry Elow American Songbook High School Competition given by the Mabel Mercer Foundation, and received the Forte International Competition’s Platinum Award at Carnegie Hall. She began singing at eight and started performing at the age of ten. Reno’s performance roster includes an array of jazz and cabaret venues, including Birdland Jazz Club, the Friar’s Club, the National Arts Club, the Players Club, Carnegie Hall, and the annual Cabaret Convention at Jazz at Lincoln Center. Reno is now making her recording debut at the age of 16 called Lovesome Thing.
Lovesome Thing (sings Ellington & Strayhorn feat. Emmet Cohen) contains twelve songs by two master writers: Duke Ellington (1899-1974) and Billy Strayhorn 1915-67), all backed by a group of jazz musicians led by pianist Emmet Cohen. He also made the arrangements with Reno. “I have a very personal relationship with these songs,” says Reno. “Somehow, I believe that the music of Ellington & Strayhorn understands me. This is why I want to honor it.”
“Mood Indigo” opens with a bluesy statement from Cohen before Reno’s smooth, warm, and strong vocals enter. Her tone is a beautiful mix of cabaret and straight-ahead jazz. Her vibrato recalls the twenties, but her phrasing and use of dynamics will grab your attention first. Juliet Kurtzman takes a stirring violin solo that is vibrant and sonically pleasing. Reno’s convening of the emotions of the lyrics and her sultry sense of time is something way beyond her years and a gift that will undoubtedly continue to garner her praise and awards.
“Take the “A” Train” is a swinging arrangement of this well-worn standard that gives the jazz fan a real chance to dig into Reno’s phrasing, rhythm, and articulation. Her phrasing is unique and playful, with a rhythmic placement that is swinging and defines the swing feel. Her articulation is never more evident than her chorus of scatting. Here the jazz fan will be pleasantly surprised and right at home with this young lady’s grasp of swing articulations. Saxophonist Tivon Pennicott also performs a solo of style and taste. Reno and her fellow ensemble members do bring new light to this standard, and it is also a great closing track.
Lovesome Thing marks Reno’s debut on the jazz recording scene and is no doubt being well-received. Her intriguing take on these standards have carved out her own niche and point of interest in a very average and crowded field of singers—an excellent choice of material and a well-arranged set performed by an outstanding cast of musicians.