Pianist Laurence Hobgood is an impressive – and important – force here on the debut full-lengther from startling new vocal talent Arianna Neikrug. Hobgood has spent a big chunk of the last quarter-century working as an arranger and acompanist for Kurt Elling. Together they’ve created a whole new way of turning pop songs on their ear to drain out the jazz. And so it is here with Neikrug. Hobgood leads a piano trio in support of the 25-year old jazz vocalist. He’s a dazzling playing (Spring Can Really Hang You Up The Most) but it’s the shades and moods he creates, particularly when interpreting well-known, much-loved classics from the folk, pop or soul worlds that really spellbind. And so it is early on here with his treatment of Al Green’s Let’s Stay Together for Neikrug. Her voice is stunning over the bed of music Hobgood imagines. Let’s Stay Together is one of those songs you didn’t think you needed to hear again…until you hear this version.
And between them, Neikrug and Hobgood recreate that sort of experience often across this album.
The Jackson Five’s I’ll Be There, Joni Mitchell’s Help Me. Even actual jazz standards: album opener No Moon At All, a 1955 set-piece for Julie London…all sound like brand new songs, almost like original tunes dare I say it, such is the power and freedom and light contained in Neikrug’s voice and in Hobgood’s arrangements.
It’s a first album from a rising talent but already I long to hear a second volume created by Neikrug with Hobgood. Such is his style and phrasing that I thought of Kurt Elling from the opening moments of this album, long before I’d checked the credits.
I’m reminded too of Alicia Olatuja’s recent album of covers but where that felt forced at times, this is effortless. And of course all the better for that.
You can support Off The Tracks via PressPatron