“Pure Imagination” by Amber Weekes is a wonderful exploration of jazz classics

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Singer Amber Weekes is a name more jazz fans should know. Her new album, “Pure Imagination” is set for release Jan. 3, 2020, is an exploration of classics that shows off her flexible voice, lighthearted style and uncanny ability to choose the right musicians to work with.

Weekes’ project arrives in the hands of listeners by way of a GoFundMe campaign and her own talent. One listen to “Pure Imagination” and most audiences will wonder why they have not heard of the singer before.

About Amber Weekes

Weekes’ early years and current performance schedule are both based on the East and West coasts. Weekes was born in Los Angeles, but her parents were from Harlem. They ran Weekes’ Luncheonette. The list of famous patrons includes a number of iconic names, including Duke Ellington, Diahann Carroll, Billy Strayhorn, Lena Horne, Sidney Poitier, and Harry Belafonte.

It is no surprise that Weekes also developed her musical talent as a child. Her early influences were Diahann Carroll, Nancy Wilson, Ella Fitzgerald, Sarah Vaughan, and Lena Horne. She studied voice with Phil Moore, Catherine Hansen, Sue Fink and Sue Rainey (who appears on “Pure Imagination”).

Weekes’ performance schedule has included opportunities at a variety of Los Angeles’ top jazz clubs, and performances at the New Rochelle Jazz Festival in New York and Caesar’s Palace in Las Vegas.

The sound and style of “Pure Imagination” by Amber Weekes

“Pure Imagination” is a recording with 13 tracks. Each teaches listeners a little something about the voice and style of Weekes. The disc opens with the title track. The feel is a bit light, the mood set for captivating audiences. Weekes’ voice is both present and agile, almost airy. She encourages listening with her phrases and the way she seems to exist within the context of each song.

In addition to the title track, Weekes also shines on “It’s All Right With Me,” the Cole Porter classic. Her clipped and sassy approach to a song about appreciating the traits of someone else while comparing them to a former love. Her holding of certain notes adds drama where listeners were not expecting it. Weekes’ high notes on this song are delightful and classic. There is no strain or over-exaggeration. The notes, mid-range or high, seem to come as easy as thoughts to Weekes.

Weekes’ well-trained voice is nestled in a soundscape of rich instrumentation. She is joined on the album by pianists Peter Smith and Tony Copodonico; bassists Trevor Ware and Jeff Littleton; drummers Charles Ruggiero and Nathaniel Scott; saxophonist Ramon Stagnaro; flutist Justo Almario; altoist Keith Fiddmont; baritonist Dale Fielder; violist, arranger Mark Cargill; trumpeters Curtis Taylor and Scotty Barnhart and percussionist Munyungo Jackson.

One song on “Pure Imagination” that should not be missed is Weekes’ version of “The Snake.” It evokes Peggy Lee’s “Fever.” Sultry and rich with horn and bass, it is the epitome of classic jazz. Jazz fans will be glad that such songs are still being recorded this late in the 21st century.

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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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