Janette Mason – D’Ranged
(Fireball Records. FMJP 10004. CD review by Mike Collins)
As the rocket fuelled gospelly soul groove fades out, with the horn section still going full throttle and Basement Jaxx vocalist Vula Malinga gliding effortlessly over the top, I settle back into my chair to pen this review with a grin on my face. Janette Mason’s arrangement of the Burt Bacharach classic I say a little prayer is a great end to this set, a series of arrangements of an eclectic mix of classic soul songs, 70’s disco and 80’s pop tunes. They’re all given a distinctive twist by arranger and pianist Mason, and performed by a stellar cast of collaborators from her wide ranging career: Claire Martin, Gwyneth Herbert, David McAlmont, Tatiana LadyMay Mayfield all contribute. They must have had great fun making this album. Sitting down at the launch party may not be an option.
After 2010’s Parliamentary Jazz Award nominated Alien Left Hand, a more overtly jazz orientated album, D’ranged marks something of a departure for the leader’s own releases. There are varied moods within the collection with the spirit of the originals sustained whilst being reshaped in Mason’s skilful hands. I wish bursts out of the speakers with a snappy left hand riff before Tatiana LadyMay Mayfield unfolds Stevie Wonder’s lyric over a rolling groove that hints at a jazzy modal feel, before switching to a more gospel like 4/4 for the hook. Blue Moon gets a repeating, haunting motif under Claire Martin’s wistful delivery that utterly transforms the Rodgers and Hammerstein standard, a standout track. Cheryl Lynn’s 70’s disco classic Got to be Real becomes a sensual, funky soul work out for Vula Malinga whilst the treatment Paul Weller’s You do Something To Me for Gwyneth Herbert, accompanied only by Mason’s piano is a haunting and affecting performance. There’s an instrumental, a take on Bowie’s Ashes to Ashes and the Bee Gees classic How Deep is your Love is a swooning ballad. After the dim the lights moments an infectious groove and a heart fluttering punchy backing vocal are never far away.
This is a set of covers, arranged (or “D’ranged”) lovingly by Mason and oozing class in their delivery.