Something of a miniature epiphany this. A vocal album sufficiently musicianly, substantial and in the instrumental tradition that it could equally well be filed under mainstream. Think vocal jazz automatically equals jazz-lite? Think again.
Cloudburst is London-based Australian Kerr's fifth album and follows her fine '02 homage to Chet Baker, My Old Flame. This time she puts the Great American Songbook aside and offers fourteen hardcore jazz instrumentals, to which lyrics and/or vocalese have later been added, either by her or by earlier writers. The original composers are Coltrane, Mingus, Monk, Clifford Brown, Gerry Mulligan, Horace Silver, Mal Waldron, Tadd Dameron, Bill Evans, Lerov Kirkland & Jimmy Harris, Duke Pearson, Antonio Jobim, Ennio Morricone, and Freddie Hubbard. To say Kerr does justice to these guys-which she does-is really to say something. The arrangements are unfussy, and wholly unsweetened, and Kerr's warm and sensuous voice, particularly effective in the midrange, delivers straightforward and engaging readings.
Key to the album's success is Kerr's band, a half dozen of London's finest, who're given plenty of space in which to stretch out and improvise. So, a vocal album for people who don't usually like vocal albums. Kerr is 100% real jazz musician, and Cloudburst is 100% real jazz. Things are looking up.
Chris May, www.allaboutjazz.com
What's this, a vocal jazz album and not a whiff of the Great American Songbook? I'm intrigued. Trudy Kerr's fifth solo release, CLOUDBURST, is a striking homage to the instrumental jazz repertoire of Coltrane, Mingus, Monk and others. Moved to pen a lyric to Coltrane's Moment's Notice, the singer subsequently took a brave decision of devoting an entire album to the art of vocalese. The title track draws out a stunning, virtuoso performance from Kerr, a machine-gun fire melodic line with lyrics penned by the vocalese meister himself, Jon Hendricks. Kerr's own lyrical excursions are no less impressive. The Rabbit (a.k.a. Gerry Mulligan's Bunny') and 'Funk Evans' (Bill Evans' Funkallero) proving to be two of the strongest tracks of the collection. Kerr has a world-class troupe of players at her disposal. Boldly conceived and brilliantly executed.
Peter Quinn, Jazzwise Magazine, Nov 2005
Vocalese, the singing of lyrics to establish jazz melodies and solos, is a tremendously demanding exercise, requiring faultless diction, vocal flexibility and - perhaps most important - a persuasive manner from the practitioners. Lyrics often have to be fitted into the most inhospitable nooks and crannies of convolute tunes, so only the most agile and dexterous of singers - Annie Ross, Jon Hendricks, Eddie Jefferson, Georgie Fame to take four obvious examples - even make the attempt. To this illustrious list, Trudy Kerr's name can now be added; Cloudburst takes it material from the post-war jazz of the likes of Bill Evans, Charles Mingus, Horace Silver, Thelonious Monk, Clifford Brown et al., and succeeds in casting fresh light - courtesy of Kerr's intelligent lyrics - on such classics as Coltrane's Moments Notice and Gerry Mulligan's Hodges tribute Bunny. With classy guest spots from Alan Skidmore, producer Derek Nash and Dick Pearce ornamenting a superbly cohesive and sparky core trio - drummer Steve Brown, bassist Sam Burgess, pianist Tom Cawley - and with Kerr's irresistibly breezy informality concealing considerable artistry, this is an attractive, deeply felt yet surprisingly subtle album that richly rewards repeated listening.
Chris Parker, Jazz at Ronnie Scott's, No 156