Mitchell delivers moody debut album
Hearing Carolyn Mitchell sing at the Lotus Leaf restaurant in Cary several years ago, you knew she was special. Part blues, part gospel, part jazz, she had it together. She swung, she sang ballads with honesty and unforgettable nuances, and she conveyed emotion without overdoing the drama. You felt as if you were in the hippest of churches, getting it in your soul. Now, at last, we have “Inner Smile,” her self-produced debut CD, which, if there were real record companies anymore, would surely impress the executives to spring for a contract.
Aside from the familiar standards “I’ve Grown Accustomed to His Face,” “Route 66” and “God Bless the Child,” the album features six compositions by Mitchell. There’s “Wicked Wind,” the atmospheric opener haunted by Grant Osborne’s ethereal harmonica sounds.
Osborne otherwise plays piano throughout the session, providing tasteful Ahmad Jamal-like grooves and support. There’s “Got to Do It,” a swinger, with Lou Padro’s rhythm guitar a key ingredient. Two slow ones – “I Live in Your Love” and “What Would You Do?”– further attest to Mitchell’s ability to create and inhabit moods via pen and voice, respectively. “Warm and Sweet,” a light, easy-going bossa nova, and “Mama Blues,” a down-home, sanctified, at times shouting sermonette, cover additional musical genres.
Mitchell’s accompanists, in addition to Osborne and Padro, include bassist Peter Innocenti, drummer Jeff Crouse, saxophonist Bobby Moody and trumpeter and conga drummer Rob Probst. Moody, soloing on soprano and alto, is a soul man par excellence. It would be easy for the band to overreach in response to the immediate thrill of this session, but the members exhibit superb emotional pacing and artful respect for the singer throughout.
You can catch Mitchell in an album release concert Oct. 3 at the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship Auditorium, 3313 Wade Ave. in Raleigh. The album is available at Quail Ridge Books and online at cdbaby, iTunes and Amazon.com.