This is a brilliant new album from Ellen Honert, who seems like a fresh new breath on the
American Jazz scene. She hails from Amsterdam and now lives in the U.S. The first thing that really hits the listener is her openness and a truly carefree attitude when singing songs that also seem composed with a trace of complexity. Breath of the Soul is an apt title, when one realizes that Ellen has squeezed the last drop of creativity, diligence and that undefinable
but very crucial quality called 'individuality' generously into this album.
On reading the liner notes by Tuck and Patti, a subterranean feeling suddenly explodes into
reality -and one realizes that this singer has absorbed all that happens to be worthy of
absorbing from Gospel singing. It is an established fact that the dedication and loyalty to the
lyrics generally is hugely profound in Gospel singing or any other genre of singing with just a
touch of religion. Sincerity really shows.
"Blue," the song that opens this album is a wonderful song and Ellen efficiently showcases
the best of her rather exalted attributes, with a dollop of personal warmth. "Life Is What You Make It" simply exudes a different sort of charm, credulously the listener concludes there is some very private bonding between the lyrics and the singer, because she bares her soul here, and very obviously gets away with it, due to her own strong belief in those words... "Spring" closely invokes the images of what most of us believe to be the best season, and "Two Lonely People" also wafts along breezily as if the composition is very nearly a boat floating on a rather pacific ocean with gentle waves and a caressing breeze.
Ellen is accompanied by a smallish 'big band' or a combo, and the list of musicians does not attribute the instruments to any names. One is, therefore, wondering who would be the brilliant pianist or who the very energetic and consistent drummer. The first four songs in the album have been composed in such a manner that tune-wise all four merge into making the presentaion as one long melody.
The fifth song, "Someday," breaks out of that mould and allows a very powerful saxophonist to make his or her debut with substantial meatiness. There seems to be a noteable trumpeter blowing his or her horn somewhere in the last row of the big band, and tempts us to strain to catch his or her very considerable contribution. There is a largish patch of wonderful improvisation on the piano in the middle portion of this song.
"If It's Magic" is a song that pops up after an interlude of lighter melodies that do not leave
very deep impressions, straddles a stronger line and carries the melody well. With a stronger
jazz quotient, this song also floats easy on slightly choppy waters. Ellen sounds a little more
intimate, breathy and seductive somehow in this song...however she reverts to her self-confident, rather strident vocal delivery in the song "Got To Get You Into My Life" - where the pianist also tinkers on providing a good dose of synergy with the controlled drumming in the background. Ellen touches some very high notes in this song, with an amazing degree of control on her voice.
"Away" is a leisurely sung song that evokes the images of this winsome singer lazing in her
backyard with daffodils and magnolias or whatever. Perhaps there birds twittering on some fruit-bearing trees, perhaps there are cats lazing in the soft morning sun... the same impression continues to hold even when one listens to the next song "Never Let Me Go" where again the old faithful piano, provides a very delicate support and amplifies the beauty of the song too. The last song "Inspiratie" unfurls in a similar manner and reminds one of a very young Barbara
Streisand singing at her relaxed best.
On the whole Breath Of the Soul' comes off as an impressive collection of rather intimate
lyrics sung with due care and devotion but delivered paradoxically with a touch of carefree and
nearly self-indulgent attitude. Ellen Honert has a very individualistic approach to jazz vocals
and she seems to cruising at top speed in the jazz universe. Good stuff. Four stars.