With such an assured and confident album, you would be right in thinking that this is not the vocalist’s debut.
Self-release – stellabass.com
Stella Bass (vocals); Johnny Taylor (piano); Barry Donohue (double bass); Dominic Mullan (drums); Michael Buckley (saxophone); Ronan Dooney (flugelhorn)
Every now and again an album appears as if from nowhere that immediately you get, and more importantly gets you. Well, that now and again has arrived in the shape of Look for the Silver Lining by Stella Bass, and album that spoke volumes to me upon first hearing it and my enthusiasm has not diminished after countless hearings.
This is a canny mix of standards, all impeccably performed to an incredibly high standard that pack an emotional punch in the ballads and deliver the knockout in the swinging numbers that drag you along in their wake.
Ms. Bass is a new name to me but listening to the music on this fine release her knowledge and experience shine through. She has studied as singer, pianist and composer and has emerged as a vocalist of rare talent.
Her voice is pure and crystal clear and yet imbued with emotion. She delivers each song as if telling a story and has the ability to draw you into the lyrics as if to catch every word and delicate nuance in her voice.
Opening with Stephen Sondheim’s wonderful ‘Being Alive’ immediately indicates you are listening to someone special, and this is confirmed on the heartfelt and poignant ‘Blame It On My Youth’.
Having set the mood with these two lovely performances, Stella ups the ante and the numbers that swing do so with vehemence. ‘This Could Be The Start of Something Big’ takes no prisoners and swinging vocals are matched by an exuberant tenor solo from Michael Buckley. ‘That Old Devel Moon’ has playful feel with a deeply propulsive bass line from Barry Donohue, and a buoyant and lyrical solo from pianist Johnny Taylor.
In addition to the standards, Ms. Bass also provides a couple of original songs that fit perfectly alongside the more familiar material. ‘All the Colours of My Love’ and the exceptional duet with Taylor on ‘Still’. These are deeply expressive and emotional songs, and ‘Still’ in particular is incredibly moving, and indicate a songwriting talent to watch.
The band are top notch, and the core unit of the Johnny Taylor Trio are an accomplished unit that know just what is expected and when to deliver. So much so that they lift the whole immeasurably, providing the best accompaniment anyone could ask for while also contributing some fine solos.
And talking of soloists, mention and due credit must be given to the guest musicians in saxophonist Michael Buckley who turns in such a great solo on ‘This Could Be the Start of Something Big’, and Ronan Dooney’s flugelhorn on ‘Blame It On My Youth’ and bringing an extra dimension to the music.
With such an assured and confident album, you would be right in thinking that this is not the vocalist’s debut. That accolade goes to Too Darn Hot a splendid and auspicious first album which was recorded a decade ago. While it has been a long time coming, the follow up shows Stella Bass to be her own woman and a fully mature and distinctive song stylist.
Check out our interview with Stella here.