Rondi Charleston’s single, “Resilience,” from the album of the same name, is uplifting in unexpected ways. Woven throughout the urban contemporary jazz soundscape are Charleston’s no-nonsense view of the world and her proof that she knows what ordinary citizens are experiencing. The result is smooth jazz that is timely and easy to listen to.
About Rondi Charleston
Chicago-native Rondi Charleston has been surrounded by jazz her entire life. The website dlmediamusic.com, when Charleston was six years old, she and her brother were taken to see Duke Ellington in concert. The event, plus her parents’ love of music, helped to give young Charleston a cultured life. Her mother taught contemporary classical music and was also a singer and voice teacher. Charleston’s father taught English at the University of Chicago.
Charleston studied acting and music at Julliard but attended graduate school for journalism. Frustration with the kind of parts she was offered in operas, and so she shifted gears and focused on emulating her media role model, the late Charles Kuralt. But music was still a part of the singer’s life. According to dlmediamusic.com, Charleston would take singing lessons during lunch breaks. And after she concluded her journalism career working with Diane Sawyer, Charleston’s so-called “third act,” jazz singing, still appealed to her.
The singer is quoted as saying that “I feel that the artist’s job is not only to capture the world around her, but to reflect on what’s going on, to make sense out of chaos.”
Sound and sense: “Resilience” by Rondi Charleston
As a person who has listened to her fair share of sarcastic, even pessimistic music, I approached the song “Resilience” with skepticism and a world-weary, “I’ve probably heard this before” kind of attitude. Some jazz songs are happier than others. Most rock songs are considerably darker than contemporary jazz songs. My hope was that the song would sound well-arranged and the singer (if there were vocals) would hit the right notes and be properly expressive. I mention this because Charleston and her ensemble manage to do more than that.
From the outset, the soundscape is urban and engaging. There are horns, a groove captivates listeners right away, and the sound reminded me of big cities. But as soon as Charleston begins singing, she sounds as if she believes what she sings.
In the lyrics, Charleston gives examples of the things that drag people down, from illness to dead-end jobs that don’t meet workers’ basic needs, Charleston reminds everyone to hang on, fight back, and be resilient. And there is something about her approach that makes listeners want to believe. As naïve and hopeful as that sounds, that is the result. Charleston’s voice is smoky but nimble. She never gets bogged down. In addition, her delivery is full of not just energy, but urgency. It is important that people fight against that which has the potential to keep them down.
Charleston succeeds here. Her message is received loud and clear by even audiences who are used to skeptical music. Charleston’s smooth jazz helps listeners relax on more than one level.