Penelope Sai Independent /www.penelopesai.com ★★★★✩
SINGER and composer Penelope Sai, originally from Sydney but based in the Blue Mountains since 2008, spent nine years working and studying jazz vocals in Paris. Her previous album, Evening
Falls, recorded in Paris, showcased her abilities as a composer and ballad singer and this new one continues to display her abundant talent in those capacities. Her voice is crystalline clear, wideranging with a high top end capable of holding long notes, and she uses expressive, jazz-inflected phrasing. Five of the songs are well-selected standards and six are compositions for which she wrote the lyrics and co-wrote the melodies. The trio backing makes a perfect vocal backdrop, from the swinging version of I’m Glad There is You, with its rolling, coursing piano solo by Sean Mackenzie, to the deeply emotional lament He was Too Good
to Me, which flows seamlessly into the gossamer vocal vulnerability of My Foolish Heart. Opening with Jonathan Zwartz’s bowed bass setting an introspective mood, Siana, a melody by Pierre Goudard with Sai’s added lyrics, features guest violinist Didier Lockwood supplying a heightened, piano-accompanied responsive tension to an outof-tempo, anguished vocal tour de force. Drummer Nic Cecire supplies a subtle Latin rhythm to another original, Scent of Jasmine, as Sai soars through the impressive melody with perhaps just the faintest touch of over-emphasis. Green Skies is in a bossa tempo with piano, bass and drums working ideally together, providing a quiet but flawlessly appropriate backing for the controlled power of Sai’s luxuriant vocal. This is a satisfying album by a vocalist-composer of unusual ability, with outstanding arranging and backing.