MUSIC FOR BETTY is a wonderful addition to the jazz canon.
Nana Rashid (Vocals); Benjamin Nørholm Jacobsen (Piano); Lasse Jacobsen (Drums); Martin Brunbjerg Rasmussen (bass)
Danish singer Nana Rashid’s debut on April Records, MUSIC FOR BETTY, is a wonderful addition to the jazz canon. For the heck of it I looked up canon in the dictionary. “A canon is a group of works deemed timeless and universal.”
She’s been compared to Nina Simone but Rashid is no copycat! When I first heard her voice, I was struck by how powerful it was. I tried to think of singers she reminded me of. Sure, there’s a bit of Nina Simone. But I also thought of Judy Henske and Barbara Dane; two folk and blues singers from the sixties.
Nana Rashid’s elegant singing voice fairly drips with melancholy. The songs are somber; sometimes sad.
‘Poor Blue Betty ’opens the album. It is a tribute to the parts of ourselves we dismiss but still badly want back because they are what make us whole.
The Danish trio Little North provide backup and they couldn’t be more sublime. Benjamin Norholm Jacobsen plays piano and helped write some of the songs on the album.
At first I thought ‘Johnny Guitar’ was an odd song choice. That’s probably because it’s the theme song for one of the weirdest westerns ever made. If you’ve never seen the Joan Crawford movie you should look for it.
‘Johnny Guitar’ was written by Peggy Lee and Nana sings it beautifully.
Another standard on MUSIC FOR BETTY is ‘No Moon At All.’ When Doris Day sang it first in 1947 it was an uptempo big band swing tune. Nana Rashid and Little North slowed it way down and added some sweet sorrow. It’s one of the prettiest tunes on the album. The piano and bass playing on this is exquisite.
Rashid wrote ‘Mother, Father’ and it’s a song about having parents from two different countries. Her mom is Danish and her father is from Oman. On Nana’s Facebook page she said it can feel like she doesn’t belong to either place and yet belonging everywhere. She says it can be hard to create solid ground to stand on.
Nana Rashid feels like people are forgetting who we are. “Making ourselves smaller by degrading ourselves to our skin color or other filters that can create “us” and “them.” In that way we are willing to give up the most precious thing we have – our felt sense of a common human experience – our empathy.”
Reviewed by Tim Larsen