Paola Vera, a graduate of Trinity College of Music, has already achieved many accolades in her so-far short career as a singer. In 2007 she won the Yamaha Jazz award, and this year she was a prize-winner in the International jazz singing competition “Jazz Voices”. In this, her first album, she showcases her song writing and arrangement skills with a collection of catchy songs.
Spellbound is a pop/acid jazz blend of tunes with suggestions of influences from the Brand New Heavies to Natalie Williams and Nina Ferro.
There are hints throughout of Paola’s impressive jazz credentials – particularly in the licks of Indestructible Melody and Take My Breath Away. Her tone is well-controlled, her voice flexible and wide-ranging, and there are scatterings of gorgeous vibrato and impressive turns.
But this is essentially a pop album, with some tracks that would not feel out of place in a West End musical.
The album kicks off with the harmonically lush and rhythmically punchy At Last. I’m a sucker for good backing vocals, and this track delivers.
Paola has a certain knack for lyrics, and I particularly like the title track Spellbound with its quirky quote from My Favourite Things. It is a shame, then, that so many potentially thought-provoking moments are lost to poor diction.
The two stand-out tracks for me are Everything I Do with its Incognito-style back beat and horn lines, and the deliciously Jill Scott-esque Honey Runs. The production of this tune is particularly good, with the whole band really laying back into the groove and sitting comfortably as a unit – something which unfortunately, and surprisingly, can’t be said for some other tracks.
The hushed and understated vocals perhaps don’t always work over such full band arrangements, but the intonation is brilliantly accurate, and a solid vocal range is explored confidently throughout the CD, well-produced by Paul Booth.