Emily Saunders ‘Outsider/Insiders’ (The Mix Sounds) 4/5

emily-saundersBrazilian vocalists other than Astrid Gilberto tend to be overlooked as influences for jazz singers, but in the case of Emily Saunders, there has been a detailed examination of the craft of Flora Purim not to mention the compositional genius of Hermeto Pascoal and instrumental prowess of Airto Moreira, and the result is an excellent recording that drives along from start to finish. Saunders specializes in uplifting, Latin-tinged numbers and the breezer, ‘Summer days’ is quite simply the perfect accompaniment to a spring or summer’s day.
The title track pays homage to Lee Morgan with an electric piano riff in ‘The Sidewinder’ vein and features a quasi-spoken delivery with a catchy ‘Nurthern like Thuthern’ bass line that lingers long. Return to Forever’s early-mid 1970s’ sound is incorporated on the wordless vocals to the exquisite ballad ‘Moon’ with an extended piano solo and this is a flowing piece with the use of subtle percussion from Fabio de Oliveira and Asaf Sirkis.
In general, fine brass ensemble playing is delivered by Byron Wallen on trumpet and Trevor Mires on trombone while keyboardist Steve Pringle is to be commended for his sensitive electric piano performance throughout.
If one had to make any comparison at all in terms of the actual voice, then it would probably be the light and gentle voice of Stacey Kent, but that is where the parallel ends for Saunders’ songbook is a slightly later and more progressive one. Her previous debut, ‘Cotton Skies’, goes back to 2011 and it has taken another four years to wait for this follow-up. On this evidence, it has certainly been worth the wait. The briefest of UK concerts took place in March and hopefully there will be more to follow.

Tim Stenhouse