Gillian Margot Brings Jazz Sophistication to Pop and Soul Hits and Obscurities at Subculture
If you found one of Roberta Flack’s first half-dozen albums from the 60s or early 70s at a flea market, would you grab it? If so, singer Gillian Margot‘s new album Black Butterfly – streaming at her webpage – is for you. In bringing a jazz sophistication to a diverse mix of pop and soul songs from throughout the years, Margot leads a stellar cast including guitarist Freddie Bryant, saxophonist/clarinetist Roxy Coss, pianist/organist Anthony Wonsey, bassist Richie Goods and drummer Kendrick Scott alongside trumpeter and producer. Jeremy Pelt. Margot’s choice of material spans many decades and just as many styles, a showcase for her breadth of knowledge and ability to channel minute shifts in emotion while working seamlessly across musical boundaries. She’s playing the album release show on May 30 at 8 PM at Subculture; cover is $20.
The album begins with its title track, Margot adding her own lyrics to pianist George Cables’ Ebony Moonbeams. Wonsey’s judiciously resonant Rhodes piano evokes Joe Zawinul in his Miles Davis days as Margot’s nimble alto and tersely multitracked vocal harmonies give life to an animated dream sequence. She goes deeply into the gospel underpinnings of Curtis Mayfield’s The Makings of You, anchoring it in the church even as she brings the song’s universality to life – and it’s a rare and rousingly successful instance of a woman singing in a lower register than the man who originally recorded it.
Likewise, Margot and Bryant – playing acoustic guitar – offer an airily terse, individualistic take of the popular Cuban ballad Delirio, adding a subtle Brazilian ambience. Margot reaches back for a hint of gospel on a richly bittersweet, vintage 70s soul-infused piano-and-vocal take of Jimmy Webb’s breakup ballad Do What You Gotta Do that draws a straight line back to Roberta Flack’s haunting original. By contrast, Margot’s a-cappella version of Joni Mitchell’s Conversation adds new levels of both angst and ironic nuance, with an intuitively lilting Appalachian tinge.
The band recasts It Could Be Sweet – the 1994 Portishead trip-hop ballad – as defly syncopated psychedelic neosoul, lowlit by Scott’s playful shuffle accents, Coss’ soprano sax and Wonsey’s hypnotically echoing Rhodes chords. Inspired by a Phyllis Hyman performance, Bobby Caldwell’s soul ballad What You Won’t Do For Love gives Margot a lowdown Isaac Hayes-style psych-soul launching pad for her affecting, imploring vocals. Then she hits an understatedly sassy, finger snapping blues groove in a spare but hard-hitting duet with Goods’ bass on on her lone original here, Yesterday’s Blues. The album winds up with a brisk, smoky take of Rodgers and Hart’s I Wish I Were In Love Again that’s as gritty as it is cosmopolitan.
No comments yet.