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Natural Affinities

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Album Review

Jeanne Lee was always an unusual singer, one of the most adventurous to emerge out of the 1960s in jazz. Listening to this 1992 recording, one hears many moments that sound a bit like Cassandra Wilson would a decade later. Lee has a warm but dark voice, often floating as part of the ensemble rather than dominating the music, although in reality she is the dominating force. During this set, although there are conventional moments (particularly a straightforward "I Thought About You" and parts of the closing number, which is Brazilian-oriented), much of the haunting music is quite atmospheric and beyond any specific style. "Mingus Meditations" has Lee at a couple points reciting the words of Charles Mingus from his semi-fictional memoirs, "Peace Chorale" and "Free Space" are not too conventional, and in some spots Lee gives prominent roles (even during her vocals) to bassist Dave Holland, trumpeter Leo Smith, and altoist Mark Whitecage. The overall results are intriguing and will take several listens to fully appreciate.


Born: 29 January 1939 in New York, NY

Genre: Jazz

Years Active: '70s, '80s, '90s

Jeanne Lee combines acrobatic vocal maneuvers with a deeply moving sound and quality that allows her to alternate between soaring, upper register flights and piercing, emotive interpretations. She's extremely precise and flexible, and moves from a song or solo's top end to its middle and bottom accompanying an instrument with a stunning ease. Though many critics have cited Lee as creating free jazz's most innovative vocal approach, she's done very little recording, almost none of it as a leader,...
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Natural Affinities, Jeanne Lee
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