Nashville continues to be a haven for outstanding jazz and jazz-themed vocalists, even though they sometimes don’t get either the exposure they merit nor the attention they deserve. The newest (for me) is the engaging Joe Freel, whose new CD “All This Love” ideally bridges all the demands required for the 21st century jazz singer.
There’s a fine blend of classic and contemporary material, blending compositions from Cole Porter to Stevie Wonder, covering show tunes and recent radio hits with equal flair. Freel also displays plenty of energy and enthusiasm in his technique, yet doesn’t overly embellish or throw in histrionics for impact. He’s first and foremost a strong communicator and storyteller, especially effective when exploring beautifully written pieces like Porter’s “Ev’ry Time We Say Goodbye” or Irving Berlin’s “How Deep Is The Ocean.”
But he’s just as expressive and delightful when switching to material not always included within the jazz canon. Whether it’s Kris Kristofferson’s “For The Good Times,” Wonder’s “Lately” or the El DeBarge title tune, Freel can inject within his treatment an easy swinging feel that incorporates a jazz sensibility without losing the tune’s original flavor. “Rocket Love,” another Wonder tune, isn’t one you often hear jazz stylists cover, but his version is enjoyable and soulful, as well as the cover of “Love Won’t Let Me Wait,” Major Harris’ ’70s soul hit.
“All This Love” also has outstanding production and musical assistance, thanks to the ace duo of pianist Lori Mechem and bassist Roger Spencer. They’ve provided sparse, ideal backing on the 12 selections, with a guest musician corps that also includes drummer Joshua Hunt, Joe Davidian on piano for half the tracks (Mechem for the others), percussionist Dan Sherrill on three other cuts, tenor saxophonist Evan Cobb on two, and Spencer on both acoustic and on occasion electric bass.
The list of elegant, striking and exciting vocalists working in the Nashville jazz community keeps growing, and Joe Freel is probably much better known than many (myself included) realize. Hopefully, “All This Love” will get him some national attention, because it’s every bit as good as many of the sessions that you hear on national radio programs and syndicated specialty shows.
© 2017 Ron Wynn. All rights reserved.
About Ron Wynn: Ron Wynn is a music critic, author and editor. His features, reviews and articles have run locally in the Nashville Scene, City Paper, and the Tennessee Tribune, and nationally in Jazz Times. Ron is former editor of the New Memphis Star, and was chief jazz and pop music critic for the Bridgeport Post-Telegram and the Memphis Commercial Appeal. He has contributed to such publications such as Billboard, The Village Voice, Creem, Rock & Roll Disc, Living Blues, The Boston Phoenix, and Rejoice. He was the editor of the first edition of The All Music Guide to Jazz (1994), and from 1993 to 1994 served as the jazz and rap editor of the All Music Guide. Wynn is the author of The Tina Turner Story. He has contributed liner notes for numerous albums; his liner notes for “The Soul of Country Music” received a 1998 Grammy nomination.