The CD opens with very exotic sounding percussion and bamboo flute introducing the invigorating and inviting Latin flavored accompaniment to the standard "Nature Boy." The interpolation of "I’ve Got Rhythm" interspersed with Sweet Baby J’ai’s dialog is an effective introduction to the second tune, Percy Mayfield’s classic "Hit the Road, Jack." Likewise, Sweet Baby J’ai applies a similar approach to "Summertime" the seventh tune on the CD. "Summertime" is juxtaposed with Sweet Baby J’ai’s original dialog and a unique interpretation of Gershwin’s classic. The third tune on the CD is a tribute to the greats of the Bebop era, "Suddenly (In Walked Bud)." This musical vehicle provides evidence of Sweet Baby J’ai’s ability to cruise through mouthfuls of John Hendricks’ vocalease interspersed with capable instrumental solos.
Sweet Baby J’ai also demonstrates her abilities as a composer on Evolution. "Hypnotized" is a down tempo blues sung with a very soulful interpretation. Her cool, smooth and swinging "Wish I Could" cooks with the heat of a blue flame. The Harmon muted trumpet solo by Oscar Brashear, double time piano solo by Nate Morgan, and guitar inflections of Ronald Muldrow are extra bonuses. On "Cooler than Cool" the listener is treated to sounds akin to 1950’s roadhouse R and B and groovin’ soul-jazz ala Lee Morgan, Adderly Brothers and Ramsey Lewis. Her "I’ll Fly You Away," begins as a soft, sultry ballad that seduces the listener into a driving samba featuring a flute solo by Carol Chaikin and piano solo again by Nate Morgan.
Evolution also contains new interpretations of songs long part of the repertoire. "Autumn Leaves" which opens with Sweet Baby J’ai in musical dialog with bassist Trey Henry, provides an interestingly different approach to this well-known standard. Her version of "You Don’t Know What Love Is," is a sexy, sultry delight that beckons to the listener’s ear. Oscar Brashear’s muted trumpet again provides appropriate accompaniment to Sweet Baby J’ai’s smoky voice. By far the swingingest tune on the CD is the version of the old New Orleans classic blues "Meet Me With Your Black Drawers On." And if that wasn’t enough, she also provides a new interpretation of the rock/soul classic "The World Is a Ghetto." Not to be left out, the title cut of the CD, "Evolution" is beautifully rendered ballad.
Evolution is a fantastic recording with great variety and balance between originals and standards, rock, blues, and jazz. The sound on Evolution is also excellent and would make this CD a superb addition to anyone’s jazz CD collection. One can only look forward to Sweet Baby J’ai’s next recording project.