What defines a female jazz vocalist today? Is it someone
whose albums feature at least three American Songbook standards? Must the singer be backed by well-known jazz musicians? What about her sound? Does she have to be bluesy? Or is this checklist outdated? There's probably no concrete answer to these questions. I do know that I'm tired of hearing the same songs over and over again, no matter how good the singer's voice. For me, the singer known simply as Brettina is among those artists who are trying to break the old, tired mold.
Brettina Robinson's debut CD, Brettina, isn't a traditional jazz vocal album. It's better. On the album, Brettina works through mostly originals, each melody and arrangement more captivating than the last. Born in Nassau, the Bahamas, Brettina's warm-weather roots are evident throughout—in the stories she tells and in the lilting surfy beats on many of the tracks. Best of all, Brettina is genuine and completely inside the music.
Catch the The Bug's tidal sweep or the jazz-soul intensity of Chai. Or the shimmy-funk 1980s feel of Kirkwood Coakley's My Time to Shine and the lower-register ballad Pardon the Storm. Brettina takes on Harry Belafonte's Island In the Sun but rather than mime the calypso singer's version, she delivers the song with a rock-a-by feel. And dig One, my favorite. It builds and smolders, topping off with a terrific piano solo by Tracy Carter.
To me, this is a first-rate jazz album of emotional beauty that is personal and endearing. And it grows on you. To Brettina's credit, she's patient with the material, never over-singing or trying to be something she's not. I suspect that what we hear is pretty much who she is.
To be sure, this CD will be a little different than the jazz vocalist albums you're accustomed to hearing. But the same passion and sincerity we expect in traditional jazz vocalists are here. And like any good jazz vocalist, Brettina constantly pulls you toward the lyrics and makes the listen a one-on-one experience. Also fabulous are the album's arrangements, which consistently engage you and perfectly support the artist.JazzWax tracks: You can sample Brettina Robinson's Brettina at iTunes or here. A CD version is available through her website here or at Amazon here. Hats off to Tracy Carter, who produced this album and plays exceptional piano throughout. Carter also had a hand in the writing several songs.