Carmen Lundy – Code Noir
Code Noir is one of the best albums you will hear this year, genres be damned. Carmen Lundy’s talents as a singer/songwriter have made her one of the most respected figures in jazz circles since her late 70’s emergence. Her recent run of studio albums have boasted an uniformly high quality thanks to the good production choices she makes and the top notch musicians who accompanying her. The trend continues with the dozen songs on Code Noir, but despite the bell-clear production qualities and sterling collaborators working alongside her, Lundy is unquestionably the star. Her voice is a remarkably diverse instrument. She inhabits the low end of her range with every bit as much confidence as she scales its peaks and never fails to find emotive footing in everything she turns her voice to. This is a rare gift that’s distinguished her performances and recording output since she first achieved notice as a singer.
“Another Chance” begins Code Noir in a slightly experimental way. This is a hazy, wafting sort of song with its instruments never really coming together in the expected way, but it works nonetheless. “Black and Blues” has some outstanding drumming courtesy of Kendrick James and Lundy delivers a vocal centered on the groove he lays down. She locks into it from the outset and never lets go. One of the many astonishing aspects of this album is how, despite the frequently snaky and challenging time signatures and rhythms the band pursues, there’s always a tremendous amount of melody in what Lundy does and it’s consistently accessible even for listeners who aren’t jazz devotees. “Afterglow” is another example of that. It zips past in comparison to the album’s other songs, but it’s full of melodic nuance and subtle shifts in both time and rhythmic approaches. The lyrics are intelligent, even witty, and Lundy expresses the longing behind the words with exceptional skill.
“Second Sight” has a little grittier feel than some of the other songs and Lundy revels in that by adding more oomph to her own voice. Jeff Parker’s guitar rises up at perfect points in the song to punctuate Lundy’s vocal lines. There’s an ample amount of wit running through this lyric as well and wrings new variations out on the “falling for someone” type of song. There’s a well-handled tropical air surrounding the music of “The Island, The Sea and You”, but it stays connected to its jazzier roots throughout the course of the song. Lundy proves herself, yet again, capable of commanding any style – the way she maneuvers through this lyric and sings along with the backing is glorious to hear. “I Keep Falling” is a muted, layer style piece with a smoky three am vibe filling the entire track. Lundy’s voice seems to emerge from behind a cloud and has a dreamy grace that will enchant any listener. She unleashes quite a memorable vocal for “I Got Your Number” that peels paint from the walls with its deep feeling gravitas. Few singers are better suited for conveying desire and longing than Lundy and few do with the same sure-footed elegance. Code Noir is another amazing musical turn in a career full of them and Carmen Lundy continues to build on her legend with each successive release.
9 out of 10 stars