Camille Thurman’s Newest an Homage to Classics

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Camille Thurman takes on jazz classics with her second album, “Inside the Moment.”

The year 2017 appears to be a promising one for young jazz musicians: at a time when audiences are ready for new takes on classics and new approaches in general, this current crop of jazz artists are producing music ready for the next jazz era.

Background

With a professional career only several years old, Thurman is poised to break new ground in jazz. She is part of a new cadre of female horn players that are taking risks while displaying their classic abilities. Thurman plays the tenor saxophone in a New York City-based quartet rounded out by bass, guitar, and drums, who’ve played numerous shows and festivals, both domestic and international.

Despite the “live” designation of the recording, the instrumentation and the vocals are quite nice. Thurman’s subgenre can be classified as “hard bop” or “free jazz” or the kind of sound non-jazz listeners think of when they think of jazz. The persistent, soulful bleat of horns riding atop the purposeful clatter of drums, and the subtle bass add up to the elements of “jazz,” and they are present here.

“Nefertiti”

To appreciate what Thurman and her quartet has done with this classic, listeners should compare it to the Miles Davis original. Then, listeners can appreciate Thurman’s approach to phrasing and the group’s general interpretation of the song. The first noticeable difference is that Thurman’s version sounds comparatively muted. That could be because of the recording styles. The instrumentation presents a kind of harmonious cacophony for most of the song, and then, the tension is intensified when all but the drums drop out and that soft, shimmery clatter plays and plays, like subtle rain. The song’s suddenly mercurial mood seems right to capture the complexity of an Egyptian queen.

“Sassy’s Blues”

After the guitar, bass, and drums have made their introductions, Thurman takes up Sarah Vaughn’s scat mantle and applies her own limber vocals to the well-loved tune. To the uninitiated, scat probably sounds like made-up words or syllables; however, it takes skill to do it properly. The freedom scat gives jazz singers is in the possibility of running up and down scales, changing speed and rhythm, while never throwing the song off its predestined course. The scat here is done nimbly, with enough changes to keep listeners tuned in. If her speed and rhythm were not enough, there is always Thurman’s range, beautifully showcased here, to keep audiences enthralled. While Thurman’s voice is not as rich as the older Vaughn’s was when “Sassy’s Blues” was first recorded, that is not a detraction. The pliability of Thurman’s voice gives it strength, and makes this song a pleasure to listen to.

There is a saying, “Art for Art’s Sake.” This recording could adopt a version of that called “Jazz for Jazz’s sake.”  The works here do not apologize or explain, and that is part of the attraction. Skillful execution is the other part of the equation that makes the music work.

 

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Dodie Miller-Gould is a native of Fort Wayne, Indiana who lives in New York City where she studies creative nonfiction at Columbia University. She has BA and MA degrees in English from Indiana University-Purdue University, Fort Wayne, and an MFA in Fiction from Minnesota State University, Mankato. Her research interests include popular music and culture, 1920s jazz, and blues, confessional poetry, and the rhetoric of fiction. She has presented at numerous conferences in rhetoric and composition, and creative writing. Her creative works have appeared in Tenth Muse, Apostrophe, The Flying Island, Scavenger's Newsletter and elsewhere. She has won university-based awards for creative work and literary criticism.

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