In her second release on the Concord label, Nnenna Freelon devotes an album to the compositions of women, lending her evocative, passionate voice to musical adventures that unfold in the tradition of good storytelling. From Nona Hendryx's "Into My Life" to Nina Simone's "Four Women" to Sippie Wallace's "Woman Be Wise" Nnenna has selected tunes she says she has loved for years, re-crafting them here and shaping them into new forms. Maiden Voyage explores music by Laura Nyro, Marian McPartland, Buffy St. Marie and Blossom Dearie, in addition to the aforementioned artists, and includes two originals by Freelon - "Sing Me Down" and "Future News Blues" - as well as Freelon's original lyrics to McPartland's "Sepia Wing". The album oozes with the feel of feminine strength, thanks to strong compositions, top rate performances from all the musicians, and most of all, to Nnenna's compelling tone and commanding strength as a vocalist.
One of the best tracks on the Maiden Voyage is the title track, featuring Herbie Hancock on piano. The lyrics were penned by Herbie's late sister, Jean Hancock. The masterful Joe Beck on guitar and the prolific Avishai Cohen on bass cohesively form the fabric with Hancock that provides a beautiful tapestry of sound, from which Freelon's voice emerges like a shiny, silver thread. She uses her resonant, sax-like voice to great advantage, pushing, soaring, then hushing, creating great dynamics and contrast, evoking mystery and feeling at every turn.
A native of Cambridge, Massachusetts, Freelon studied in Amherst with Yusef Lateef. She built a following in the northeast before relocating to South Carolina. A graduate of Simmons College in Boston, she managed for years to balance working full time as a hospital administrator and raising her three children with her work as a Jazz vocalist.
After meeting Ellis Marsalis at an Atlanta Jazz forum and giving him her demo tape, Freelon found herself recommended by Marsalis to Columbia Records. She made three albums for Columbia, and was recently featured on T.S. Monk's Monk On Monk, on N2K. She is the recipient of the Billie Holiday Award from France's prestigious Academie du Jazz. Maiden Voyage is a follow-up on the Concord label to the 1996 album Shaking Free.
(Courtesy of The Green Mountain Jazz Messenger)