Standards can be a minefield for the new jazz vocalist. Too often, the assumption of safety is made, when in fact the opposite is true, with lesser artists being caught out by the unexpected demands of the genre.
Nicole Henry thankfully, is anything but a lesser artist and her performance of the swing and pop chestnuts that make up this album bear the hallmarks of an artist fully up tothe rigors of top-flight jazz vocals
Her supporting trio is sturdy if unspectacular, just whatthe aspiring star needs to wrap her sassy yet soulful voice around the likes of "Summertime" 'Fly Me To The Moon" and the title song. Similarly, when Henry sings "Can't Help Lovin' Dat man of Mine" one can hear the assurance of a young singer who is at or close to the end of the search for her stylistic niche. Her voice suggests the sense of adventure and joie de vivre, if not the nuances, of a Nneena Freelon, as well as shades of Randi Crawford.
A trio of tracks coming roughly at mid-point comprisethe album's highlight. First up, a bouncy reading of Cole Porter's 'You'd Be So Nice To Come Home To" in which Henry's vocals build from mere whimsy to near desperation by the time o the final chorus.. "You're Looking at Me" gets the wistful treatment, amplifying the sense of defeat portrayed in Billy Troup's lyrics. The piece de resistance is "My Love" which begins with a bluesy bass break that Henry mounts with the insouciant skill of a Cossack getting up on his favourite steed, riding it all the way to the rumbly end.
Henry comes up short on the most modern cover of the bunch, Brenda Russell's 'Get Here" neither the vocals or the musical arrangements do anything to dislodge the memory of Oleta Adams' definitive cover, nor Russell's own version. She fares better with John Lennon's ' "Imagine" but here again, here treatment tends to bring Crawford's excellent cover to mind.
Nevertheless, Henry acquits herself well on this first outing. She doesn't break any ground or make any overarching statement, but she does position herself as a grounded jazz vocalist, one with the necessary chops and attitude to develop into a true diva.