From the beginning to the end this album is a triumph.
33 Jazz Records 33JAZZ292
Nicki Leighton-Thomas (vocals); Simon Wallace (piano; Alec Dankworth (bass); Rod Youngs, Mike Pickering & Roy Dodds (drums); Dave O’Higgins (saxophones); Paul Stacey (guitar); Steve Waterman (trumpet); Gary Hammond (percussion)
A long time coming but here we have the follow up to Nicki’s excellent Forbidden Games released in 2001, and it does not disappoint. Once again, Nicki focusses on the music of Fran Landesman and Simon Wallace with devastatingly impressive results.
Incredibly Nicki has managed to assemble all the musicians from the original album to record One Good Scandal, with the intervening years finding that all have developed further as musicians and yet retained the freshness and enthusiasm that was so appealing on Forbidden Games.
Fran Landesman and Simon Wallace collaborated on hundreds of songs together, and this presents another issue of which is just which ones do you choose? All in all, Nicki’s songs choices are impeccable.
The opening number ‘Semi Detached’ is a real swinger, with some excellent tenor playing from O’Higgins that frames Nicki’s vocals superbly. This is also true of the title track, taken at a gentle tempo the saxophonist is again totally in tune with the singer and the song.
Nicki Leighton-Thomas now has enough experience to handle the darker side of Landesman’s lyrics, as evidenced on ‘Depravity’ in partnership this time with Steve Waterman’s resigned and melancholy trumpet.
Nicki’s vocals embrace Landesman’s lyrics with pathos, joy, sorrow and resignation, and even a little optimism and levity on ‘This Little Love Of Ours’, with the music provided by on this occasion by Tommy Wolf and performed with just the rhythm section.
Trimming down the line up is a neat trick that Nicki repeats on a couple of delightful duets. The first is ‘It’s Only A Movie’ that feature words and music by Landesman with guitarist Paul Stacey. Stacey made a major contribution to the earlier record, and it is a real pleasure to hear their work further in such an intimate setting.
The other duet is with Wallace on piano on a song that was in fact written for the singer by Landesman, ‘The Girl You Can’t Forget (Nicki)’. Incredibly after singing the title song and ‘Depravity’, Nicki delivers the lyrics with an innocence and touch of naivety that is spellbinding.
From beginning to end the album is a triumph, and dare I say it that Nicki Leighton-Thomas sings with a maturity that is rare. There is total conviction in everything she sings, and this total belief in the song makes this a compelling listen.
Reviewed by Nick Lea