Jennifer Hartswick, Something in the Water Review
By Sylvannia Garutch
Jennifer Hartswick released her sophomore album, Something in the Water, via Mack Avenue Records. The nine songs showcase Hartswick on the trumpet and on lead vocals. Joining her is a core ensemble of Nicholas Cassarino – guitar/vocals/production, Christian McBride – bass, and Conor Elmes – drums. Rounding out the album are guests Rob Marscher – keyboard, Celisse Henderson backing vocals, and Roy Agee- trombone. Hartswick writes and sings about life, love, and music that was deeply informed by her family’s farmland in her hometown of Sheffield, Vermont, where the landscape shaped her musical sensibilities.
“Only Time Will Tell” is a funky jazz selection that opens with McBride taking a melodic bass solo before joining Hartswick in playing the central theme. As the song progresses, the horns and backing vocals add depth and a full-sounding ensemble. Hartswick’s scat singing is impressive, and it is clear her trumpet playing has influenced her fluid scatting. The horn writing is balanced and serves the song well in creating an ever-changing background, as do the vocal background harmonies. The cadential figure wraps up the song with an impressive array of Hartswick’s vocal chops.
The showstopper is a funky selection called “Two Way Mirror.” As Harstwick attacks the melody with style and rhythmic confidence, her lyrics show a considerable range of observations that deal with politics, Covid isolation, and self-doubt. The ensemble builds a body-shaking groove that will easily take this selection to listeners outside the jazz circle. Hartswick shows off her warm, buoyant trumpet soloing and another building ending with her singing jazzy R&B lines with feeling and bluesy articulations.
Something in the Water clearly shows Hartswick’s talent as a vocalist and trumpet player. The songs present her talents in different genres, feelings, and musical settings. Cassarino’s guitar playing, vocals, and production guidance also help this project focus on Hartswick’s multiple talents. This album certainly makes the anticipation for her next project high.