Ms. Speer has released her new CD Nature Girl, which is fifty minutes of beautiful, mostly mellow, not smooth, jazz. Cynthia has put together a great roster of musicians and chosen some great songs to sing on what I believe is her first CD. Any musician launching a recording career would do well to follow Cynthia’s lead, surround yourself with the best musicians, choose excellent songs, and if you are going to use your own material make sure it is really that good.
The first thing about the CD that caught my attention is Cynthia’s voice. It is smooth, strong and very skillfully employed. Cynthia sings without gimmicks and with a naturalism that is very appealing. I think uncluttered may be one way to describe how she sings a song. I find enjoyment in listening to the story in a song and her vocal clarity makes this an easy pleasure to indulge.
There are eleven songs on the CD the majority are standards that have become part of the soundtrack of many jazz lovers’ lives. "I Fall in Love Too Easily," "Nature Boy," "Smile" and "Let There Be Love." Cynthia does justice to every one of them but of special note are two of her own compositions, the third track entitled "Sleep" and a very tasty bluesy number entitled "I Apologize."
"Sleep’s" lyrics remind me of Cryer and Ford and Cynthia’s vocals are reminiscent of Betty Buckley, who strictly speaking isn’t a jazz vocalist. But they share that intoxicating richness of voice and the ability to convey emotion without going over the top or becoming sentimental.
Cynthia sings "I Apologize" in the best Texas roadhouse tradition with a sultry longing in her voice that will either bring her man back or win her a new one. I can see this song becoming a juke box favorite. I know I like it a lot. Cynthia is joined on this tune by fellow Texan Preston Smith who lays down some really great harmonica and guitar
The musicians are ten extremely talented and fortunately now Los Angeles based musicians. These guys have played with everybody from Ahmad Jamal to Frank Zappa. They are Cynthia Speer - vocals, composition and arranging; Mike Hughes - piano, arranging and producing; Bill Markus - upright bass; Giovanni Nickens - drumming; Jesse Bradley - guitar; John Heard - bass; Elliott Caine - trumpet; David Sills - Flutist; Sal Marquez - Trumpet; Preston Smith - Sitar, guitar and harmonica.