Portland, Oregon-based vocalist/bassist Belinda Underwood opens her debut with Mel Torme's ”Born To Be Blue,” employing a vocal style that seems a curious mixture of coy guilelessness and sultry sensuality. Not bad for someone who started as an instrumentalist—bass, violin, baritone ukulele, piano, harp—and then started singing late in the game because she couldn't make her bass play the sounds she was thinking, forcing her resort to her voice.
Underwood Uncurling features six of Underwood's own compositions, the highlight perhaps the title tune, which has a very Joni Mitchell vibe. She also tackles a couple of familiar standards—Irving Berlin's “How Deep Is The Ocean,” featuring some marvelous phrasing in front of a vibrant arrangement; and “You Don't Know What Love Is,” a loving nod to Billie Holiday infused with Underwood's own style.
Underwood is a talented lady. The mix of standards and originals here, played with understated but tasteful accompaniment, makes for an engaging listen in the singer/songwriter category—leaning toward jazz on the standards and looking in the pop/songstress direction (Joni Mitchell style) on her originals. “Invitation” (B.F. Kaper/P.F. Webster), featuring a backdrop of gently bubbling percussion, makes me think she'd sound wonderful—with that touch of hush that creeps into her voice at times—on a bossa nova set.
- Dan McClenaghan (allaboutjazz.com) April 2005