Kevin Hays / Chiara Izzi ‘Across The Sea’ CD (Jando Music) 4/5

“Across The Sea” is the new collaboration between pianist and vocalist Kevin Hays, and singer-songwriter Chiara Izzi. Producer Enzo Capua was first introduced to the talent of Chiara Izzi at a festival in Rome many years ago, and now reconvenes with his fellow Italian for this engaging journey that encompasses a full range of jazz and pop-tinged set of tunes. Hays and Izzi are joined by bassist and French hornist Rob Jost and drummer Greg Joseph. The quartet share the company of special guests Chris Potter on saxophone, Grégoire Maret on harmonica, Omer Avital on oud, Nir Felder on guitar and Rogério Boccato on percussion.

The multi-lingual, pan-stylistic set of ten tunes comprise of intelligent original compositions featuring lyrics from both Hays and Izzi, along with some highly personalised interpretations of songs written by artists whom both Hays and Izzi admire. The natural synergy between the duo is clearly apparent throughout the entire recording, with a joyous spirit evident for all to hear.

The pair share a compelling predominance of melody and osmosis between vocals and keyboards, reflected in the unity and clarity of their performances. There seems to be the highest level of intuition going on between the two, with subtle harmonies and the strength of a shared vision bringing the best out of their collective jazz, folk, soul, blues and Mediterranean hued pop influences.

In a way the music resembles a live conversation between the two singers, sparkling as they do on tunes like the endearing “I’ve Grown Accustomed to His Face”, the beguiling “Sea O’ Life”, and the enchanting “Two For The Road”. There’s an acute lyricism to the performances throughout the session and some clever reworking of a few familiar tunes, none more so than a vocal-led version of the Pat Metheny/Lyle Mays classic “James”.

It’s sometimes too easy to dismiss an album like this one. One could argue there’s nothing particularly over-inventive about it, and that it doesn’t stretch any musical boundaries or even come up with anything new. But not all music needs to do that, as sometimes it’s just nice to sit and listen to a very accomplished set of tunes performed with a heartfelt joy by musicians doing exactly what they’re good at. And that’s the case here, an album to relax to where you can feel the warmth of the music and just smile.

Mike Gates