Arianna Neikrug ‘Changes’ CD (Concord Jazz) 4/5

Jazz vocalist Arianna Neikrug is one of the Young Turks on the block, but she is in the very best of company insofar as the pianist, arranger and co-producer is none other than Laurence Hobgood, who of course was for a long time accompanist to Kurt Elling.
The repertoire covers both the Great American songbook and well beyond into more contemporary sounds that include folk and soul. However, Neikrug sounds perfectly at ease on two compositions that she co-wrote, best of which is the title track that enables the singer to stretch out over whole passages and with an extended piano solo from Hobgood, who, as a whole, lays down some lovely Evansesque touches, and the two combine seamlessly on the second, ‘New York Song’. An enduring piano riff lingers ad infinitum on ‘Spring Can Really Hang You Up The Most’, which takes on a slightly pacier, waltz-like tempo here and fine percussive work also. The trio is completed by the empathetic efforts of bassist Matt Clohesy and drummer Jared Schonig. There are some unexpected surprised in store on a medley that brings together the ballad, ‘Never Let Me Go’ and the Jackson Five’s ‘I’ll Be There’, while the shuffling wordless vocals of Arianna Neikrug greet the listener on the opener, ‘No Moon At All’, which develops into a shuffling trio number. Among the singer’s formative influences, are two male singers and there is a heartfelt tribute to both on, ‘Devil May Care’, for Bob Dorough and Al Green for ‘Let’s Stay Together’, which is performed as an aching ballad and a refreshing perspective on the old soul chestnut. However, Joni Mitchell is clearly also a seminal influence and there is a competent cover of ‘Help Me’/’Be Cool’. A promising debut for Concord, then, and with more of her own songwriting surely to come in future outings.

Tim Stenhouse