Blues and Soul Music Magazine

Issue 1101

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Polly Gibbons: Many Faces Of Love (Resonance Records)

Polly Gibbons CD cover pic



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UK release date 23.03.2015

I am in love. One listen to this fabulous album and the discovery of the stunning vocal talents of British jazz singer Polly Gibbons, and you may well succumb too.

A real find here folks; both the artist and the album. So, so, so soulful as well as nailing the jazz licks with her amazing versatility. If she was filed under jazz alone, that would most certainly be doing her a huge disservice. Polly is as much Joss Stone and Aretha as she is Sarah Vaughan and Ella.

A dozen covers and a bonus DVD where we can meet Polly behind the scenes, and get to see her in concert on eight songs, including two blues numbers not on the CD.

So who is Polly Gibbons, I hear you ask? Well, if you are sitting comfortably; I will tell you……………. “A truly exceptional, once-in-a-generation talent, possessing a voice of such sizzling intensity and raw emotion you could fry an egg on it.” “A soulful young jazz vocalist destined to be a star!” So has been said by some of my fellow music journalists. I concur.It’s not only the music press that has lined up to gush about the young vocal sensation. After hearing her at Ronnie Scotts club in London, Van Morrison declared, “She’s got a great voice!” and Joss Stone said, “I love her voice, it’s really soulful. I can’t wait to hear more of Polly…”

Legendary songwriter Johnny Mandel attended her US debut show in February last year (2014), and the man who has written and arranged for the likes of Peggy Lee and Frank Sinatra was smitten: “They don’t come along very often, but this one’s a star.” “Many Faces of Love,” is her debut album and DVD release for the U.S. market an only the second release of her career. Recorded at Resonance Records in L.A. and produced by label boss George Klabin.

“My Own Company,” her debut album, with James Pearson, pianist and Musical Director of Ronnie Scott’s, and his trio, was released to critical acclaim in August 2014. Growing up in Suffolk on a farm, she was introduced to the blues by her Father and brother, to classical music by her Mother and to “everything else” by her sisters. Billie and Aretha were the first singers who wowed her on first listen. Polly discovered her own voice at 13, and began singing with an R&B band led by her Father, at 18. Nominated for a BBC Jazz Award in 2006, even before her first album, in the “Rising Star” category.

Polly descends from a grand tradition of jazz and blues women whose singing exudes strength, defiance and sassy wit. Just 30 when she made this album, Gibbons possesses a raspy, lived-in tone, a walloping sense of swing and a dramatic flair that grabs the heart. Emotionally, her singing ranges from a slow burn to a bonfire. In London jazz circles, she has been acquiring a growing chorus of champions since her emergence a decade ago.
For “Many Faces of Love,” Polly has assembled a crew of some of the most skilled musicians in contemporary jazz. Her band is led by Israeli born, L.A.-based pianist and arranger Tamir Hendelman, who conjures up the slamming grooves, the feistiness and the jubilation that mark Gibbons’ singing. Also accompanying Polly on the new release are violinist Christian Howes, guitarist Anthony Wilson, bassist Kevin Axt and drummer Ray Brinker. This is NOT just a band. They have got Polly’s back big time, but Tamir and Christian are astounding talents. She is a lucky girl.

Gibbons, who names artists as diverse as Mahalia Jackson, Joni Mitchell, Charlie Parker, Leonard Cohen, Donny Hathaway, Nina Simone, Marvin Gaye, Prince and D’Angelo as key influences—is also a songwriter whose original composition “Midnight Prayer” won first place in the Indie International Songwriting Competition. For Many Faces of Love the singer has chosen to emphasize her interpretive skills. Whether on the R&B nugget "Please Send Me Someone to Love," Bob Haymes’ “Make It Last”(from a 1958 Betty Carter recording), Dr. John’s "City Lights," Al Jarreau’s “Not Like This,” Rickie Lee Jones’ "Company" or Patti Austin’s "That’s Enough for Me,” Gibbons drills to the core of the lyric and melody, making each song her own.

Gibbons’ magnificent command of a jazz ballad is exemplified by her steamy take on "After Hours," an early Sarah Vaughan trademark, and "I Have the Feeling I’ve Been Here Before," written by pianist Roger Kellaway with Alan and Marilyn Bergman for Carmen McRae. “Love Comes and Goes," meanwhile, is a gem from veteran British songwriter Carroll Coates.

Polly Gibbons is an old soul and conjures up a spirit, a deep joy and an ache across this essential listen collection. In possession of her vocal skills and innate soulfulness, had she been born a few decades earlier and across the pond, I have no doubt she’d be a superstar by now.

It is rare to hear an artist on a record that you can safely say defines who that artist is and what they do best. Here you can say that without fear of criticism - only her second album too. A big future ahead of her, for sure.............

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