Produced & Arranged by: Dr. Cynthia J. Felton Mixed by: Al Schmitt, Capitol Studios, Hollywood, Ca
My Funny Valentine
Better Than Anything
My Love Is
Duke Ellington's Sound of Love
Close Your Eyes
Lost In The Stars
What Are You Doing The Rest Of Your Life?
Freedom Jazz Dance
"From the first ringing notes – "Oh Freedom" of Cynthia Felton's Freedom Jazz Dance session, I was lifted by the life force of her celebration of the common language of jazz, blues and gospel.
Here is Cynthia Felton bringing the impact of her multi-dimensional human voice. And dig the heart-pulse beat – also known as swinging – in all of her storytelling including such too seldom heard originals as Charles Mingus' "Duke Ellington's Sound of Love."
Although this is a singer with a four-octave range, she does not engage in surface pyrotechnics – technical wizardry. Dizzy Gillespie once told me: "It took me years to learn what notes not to play, "Cynthia Felton doesn't flashily pyramid notes. Each sound is part of her inner being.
Her passion led her to found The Ethnomusicology Library of American Heritage where she focuses on that deep heritage that has become a global music transcending barriers of national languages and backgrounds. The intent of the library is "to bring attention to artists and music history that might not be so known."
And Cynthia Felton, as you hear in this session, surely deserves to be much better known. I confess I did not know about her until this recording. Now Cynthia's music has become part of my life.
- Nat Hentoff
At The Jazz Band Ball: Sixty
Years On The Jazz Scene
(University of California Press)
Felton pays homage to her religious roots by opening with "Oh Freedom" (track 1), a traditional spiritual. Sung a cappella, she displays a wide vocal range, melodic control, and deep emotions. The religious theme is also displayed on "Lost in the Stars" (track 9), a beautiful song also recorded by the great Abbey Lincoln.Featuring Felton's angelic and soulful rendition of the lyrics, the arrangement includes the subtle accompaniment of harpist Carol Robbins to the rhythm section. Beginning with an introspective melodic phrase by Wallace Roney on trumpet, Felton's lyrical interpretation includes one of her staples, using vibrato to emit emotion and meaning on long tones, and excellent vocal control in the middle to high vocal ranges. Equally creative and complimentary to the
mood and feel of the composition is the bowing background provided by Robert Hurst, bass.
"Duke Ellington's Sound of Love" (track 6), an introspective and seldom-heard composition by Charles Mingus, is composed in vintage Mingus style, including atypical melodic movement and intervals. Accompanied by a rhythm section and solos by Robert Hurst on bass and Ronald Muldrow on guitar, Felton flows through the lyrics and provides contrast to her lyrical interpretation by scatting.
In an original interpretation of the Nat King Cole classic, "Nature Boy" (track 8), Felton uses vibrato on long tones. She explores her middle and upper vocal ranges for both contrast and to enhance the emotion and meaning of the lyrics. A conceptually sensitive piano solo by Patrice Rushen adds to the overall mood and feel of the composition. Felton's love of jazz classics is also evident in her masterful interpretation of "My Funny Valentine "(track 3). When listening, one can tell that she is very comfortable singing, and her interpretation ranks as one of the best displays of jazz excellence on the CD, perhaps because she has sung this classic since her undergraduate days at the Berklee College of Music. Wallace Roney begins the composition with middle to lower register long tones that are combined with a Miles Davis inspired musical phrase to create a mood-setting introduction. Thereafter, Felton enters with a rich, sultry, and original interpretation of the lyrics. Her interpretation is permeated with individual note emphasis, exploration of all vocal registers, and use of vibrato on long tones, which, in turn, are combined to form a musical whole. In addition to her originality, Felton's interpretation appears to acknowledge the masterful renditions of vocal giants like Billie Holiday and Sarah Vaughan, and the soul searching and wailing trumpet version by Miles Davis. Robert Hurst's bowed bass solo which includes runs, sequences, and long tones, and the contrapuntal piano lines of Donald Brown are excellent compliments to Felton's singing.
Another noteworthy interpretation of a ballad and jazz standard occurs on "What Are You Doing the Rest of My Life" (track 11). Her sensitive interpretation of the lyrics is supported by the rhythm section, and includes non-intrusive piano support by John Beasley.
Moderate tempo compositions are well represented on the CD. In addition to her knowledge of "Take 5's" (track 2) chord changes, she displays her ability to create within a 5/4 meter. The finger popping on "My Love" (track 5) combines with a bass accompaniment to produce a complimentary background for Felton's joyful rendition of the lyrics.
Her expertise as an arranger is also featured on "Better Than Anything" (track 4), a largely unknown, but joyful tribute to jazz icons like Count Basie, Bill Evans, John Coltrane, Miles Davis, Ella Fitzgerald, and Joe Williams. With trumpeter Nolan Shaheed interpolating the opening phrase from Art Farmer's "Killer Joe," Felton employs scat singing, and alternating meters, 4/4 and 3/4, are featured throughout the composition.
The CD also includes two up-tempo compositions seldom recorded by vocalists. Felton sings the lyrics on "Cherokee" (track 10), a composition that served as a contrafact for many bebop compositions, and was a vehicle for cutting contests at bebop jam sessions.In this case, Felton arranges the piece as a collective improvisation for her quartet, with Nolan Shaheed, in the background, negotiating the difficult chord changes with ease.
The CD ends with "Freedom Jazz Dance" (track 12), an instrumental jazz classic by Eddie Harris and lyrics by Eddie Jefferson. The title of the composition also serves as title of the CD because Felton believes that the words, "freedom" and "jazz," are generic to the history and evolution of African-American musical traditions. She begins by speaking the words, "Jazz is free," over a driving rhythm section. In turn, Felton sings the difficult lyrics, and intervals with ease, the mark of a true jazz musician unafraid to tackle difficult compositions that other vocalists would not.
- Eddie S. Meadows, PhD Author of: Bebop to Cool:Context, Ideology, and Musical Identity. Westport, Conn.: Praeger, 2003.Named a "Choice Outstanding Title" for 2004.