Singer-songwriter Ashley St Pierre’s début album reveals considerable talent just itching to break loose and take the world by storm.
Like an opening night, a first performance can never be taken back (how often do musicians, actors and composers wish they could have begun the run with the second attempt or after some severe editing?!).
St Pierre’s voice displays remarkable maturity and flexibility. In the opener, “A Momentary Lapse” her lyrics were written/delivered with passion but now a real effort should be made to sing through and truly support the vowels so that the music begins to flow with, apparently, effortless ease (this is no quick fix, falling into the easier said than done category). The final octave change-of-register in “You’re Not Here” will also benefit. The initial scat track, “Nature Boy,” suffers from being too careful—just let go: surprise yourself and the listener. (The opening of “Star Spinning” is already proof positive that St. Pierre has the chops to do so.)
When dealing with half-step infused melodies (both in Eden Ahbez’s “Nature Boy” and her own “Jorea”), enjoy the shifts and provide enough weight/wait to let everyone savour the harmonic ambiguities.
As song creator, St Pierre offers a marvellous sense of timing and construction that is much appreciated by the band: no spotlight hogging here—everyone gets to contribute and shine. Especially pleasing is St Pierre’s ode to “Emile.” During the atmospheric launch, she uses her voice as another “horn,” deftly setting up (along with Mike Malone’s earthy flugelhorn) Mike Murley’s tenor sax lead. In the keyboard department, Adrean Farrugia is frequently too heavy handed to match St Pierre’s svelte tone. A trip to the Alfred Brendel school of ringing the top rather than pounding it would much improve the balance here and in the generous solo in the first track of Emile d’Eon’s guitar offerings—notably “God Only Knows”—which are beautifully supported but the sequences don’t conclude convincingly. No worries: his extended solo “Afro Blue” is a gem, exhibiting a much better sense of line and spontaneous inevitability. As they do throughout, Mark Inneo (drums) and Mark McIntyre (bass) are with him every step of the way, living up to the mantra that an excellent rhythm section should be more felt than heard (don’t miss McIntyre’s most tasty solo in “Nature Boy”—not only is it refreshingly creative, he seamlessly ushers the others back into the chart when he’s done: more, please.
Closing off the proceedings with a Michel Legrand classic is a gutsy move. St Pierre digs down deep and comes up with a powerful performance that exquisitely disappears into the night. With artistry of that calibre and the promise for more, can anyone not answer the seemingly rhetorical question, “What Are You Doing the Rest of Your Life?” JWR