Pene­lope Sai In­de­pen­dent /www.penelope­ ★★★★✩

The Weekend Australian - Review - - Music Reviews - John McBeath

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.

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