Jumoké Fashola – The Condition of Being A Woman
(Sass & Rhythm Records SASSR001. CD Review by Alex Webb)
Jumoké Fashola’s The Condition of Being A Woman is as warm, feisty and engaging as the woman herself. The opener sets the tone, hitting a lovely South African groove on Tim Sutton’s I Am A Stranger, comfortably carried by bassist Oli Hayhurst and drummer James Maddren. The album covers many bases – from classics like Four Women, Afro Blue and a sassy My Heart Belongs to Daddy to rarer finds and original contributions such as an interesting combination of Wayne Shorter’s Footprints and the African folk poem Breathe (popularised by vocal group Sweet Honey In The Rock).
The muscular but sympathetic piano of Simon Wallace – always an asset to a vocalist – sits nicely in this context. Wallace digs in with some unhurried blues on Fashola’s timely original, Recession Blues (‘Dave and Nick have got my wallet, and Mr Money’s up a tree’) and one of the album’s standouts is Fashola’s reading of his co-composition with Fran Landesman, The Girl You Can’t Forget. Fashola also tackles the occasionally wince-making Here’s To Life without sounding melodramatic or self-pitying, in a spacious arrangement which produces possibly her best vocal performance on the CD.
On a more critical note, there are one or two vocal intonation issues, and Fashola seems occasionally uncertain whether to sing in the American accent demanded by the material or in her own well-enunciated English way. And to this writer’s jaded ears, there might be a tad too many ‘earth mother’ gestures in the lyrics. But for pure, uncomplicated listening pleasure – not an overstocked quality in contemporary jazz – this album comes strongly recommended.