Blues and Soul Music Magazine

Issue 1101

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Nicole Willis & UMO Jazz Orchestra: My Name Is Nicole Willis

Nicole Willis



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UK release date 29.09.2017

It's been a while since we last heard from this artist but rest assured, Finnish based Nicole Willis is back in style, "My Name Is Nicole Willis" gets down to business from the off with a smorgasbord of styles and moods.

I can't think for the life of me why this girl is not more widely known but perhaps this grandiose offering may be a change for the better. Gone are her backing band, The Soul Investigators, so now all attention is firmly fixed on her.

This ambitious album is a collaboration with the UMO Jazz Orchestra, composed of songs written by Ms Willis, guitarist Pete Toikkanen and Jimi Tenor as well as choice selections from her back catalogue with The Soul Investigators. Ian Svenonius is featured on the prologue as well as epilogue tracks of the album and he really sets the mood for this sassy, film noir like offering.

The dark, languorous introduction a kind of 'Crime Jazz' jamboree, is sublime, filled with the great swathes of the UMO Jazz Orchestra before giving way to a real soul belter "Break Free (Shake A Tail-feather)" which acts as the perfect background for both singer and guitarist who cuts some scintillating physchedelic sounds over a horn heavy hurricane of a tune - this readers, is the way to use a guitar and an orchestra!

"Haunted By The Devil", a slow-tempo funk bomb that easily matches anything Daptone could muster, sees Nicole's yearning vocals stand out in a bittersweet melodramatic fashion - achingly beautiful, just listen to her bend and crease those syllables...she put everything into it and the summery soul grooves of "One In A Million" reaffirms this so succinctly as well.

Nicole ramps up the tempo with the big banger of the album "Everybody Do The Watsui" - a classic 60's homage with pure pop sensibility - which cuts the mustard, giving way to an angular ballad entitled "No Child Denied" - a heavy lyric balanced with UMO's way out arrangement adding some deep intoxication and "When We Go Down" follows suit too, without lapsing into either total rage or paroxysms of self-reproach - very different, controlled histrionics if you like - which makes it so extraordinary. It's good to see the lady back and this platter is pretty damn epic! Packed full of heart wrenching stuff and magnificent arrangements.
Words Emrys Baird

From Jazz Funk & Fusion To Acid Jazz

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