Jazz Society of Oregon, Aug 2008, by Kyle O'Brien
Underwood is a talented bassist and singer who has made some great connections on both the local and national scene. That’s why she’s able to get great guest players like percussionist Martin Zarzar, vocalist Nancy King and pianist Benny Green. Her vocals have an earnest airiness, floating yet pointed. She unfortunately hides her bass talent, save for a few tracks, opting instead for Phil Baker’s steady hand. And she lets King take the lead on the opening track, a scatting “Bass Blues.”
Underwood has grown as an artist, especially as a songwriter. She wrote half the tracks on the disc, and the first self-penned number is an unexpected surprise. For a woman who walks effortlessly between folk and jazz styles, “Seeing Red” is an embrace of jazz, a funky little soul jazz blues that grooves with substance. But aside from writing the tune, Underwood is absent, letting Green and her sister, Melissa, share the melody on piano and sax, respectively. Her vocals have gotten stronger as well. She sings with more force but still has the willowy, carefree quality that makes her stand out. She delivers the ballad “Blue Gardenia” slow, laid back and breezy, a mature take. When Underwood finally pulls out the bass, it’s seven tracks in. While Baker plays with more force, Underwood is quieter with a lighter touch. But her strength is as a songwriter on this disc. The whimsical, storytelling “Midnight Snatcher” is a joy, and her jazz waltz ballad, “Limitless,” is rich in chords, giving Green a chance to show off his sense of touch. And “Odd Meter Blues,” is a fun tune in 9. She even goes exotic, with the middle eastern tonalities of “The Oasis,” which features the haunting violin work of Egyptian musician Alfred Gamil. This is a fine outing for this up and coming musician, and hopefully next album we’ll hear more of her songwriting and bass playing.
2008, Cosmik Muse Records, 53 minutes. view original