Kim Cypher – Love Kim x
(KCM004 – CD review by Mark McKergow)
Saxophonist and singer Kim Cypher’s second album builds her reputation for sparkling jazz with classic style and attitude, bringing guest stars including tenor sax legend Pee Wee Ellis and pianist David Newton into the fold for an enjoyable collection of standards and originals with very wide appeal.
Since the release of her first album in 2017 Kim Cypher has been building a solid reputation on the UK scene with her lively stage presence and stylish vintage look. Appearances around the country including two appearances at Pizza Express Soho (click on the link for a stonking version of It’s Almost Like Being In Love recorded there) mean that this second CD comes with a track record. The mix is similar to her first album Make Believe, with slightly fewer originals and a wider repertoire.
What makes Kim Cypher stand out is her ability both as a sax player and instrumental soloist (we hear her on alto, tenor and soprano on this collection) as well as a stand-out singer and songwriter. Either of these would be notable – together they make for an exceptional and winning performer. Add to this her ability to surround herself with fine musicians and guests, and we have a great show on our hands.
The three originals on this album include the soulful Maybe… with a nice soprano sax solo and groovy Rhodes piano from David Newton, and dedicated to Karen Jackson, a friend of Kim’s who is suffering from cancer. It’s a song about hope and has a restful and optimistic quality. Highland Mike is another dedication (to Mike Carter, who introduced Kim to a lot of different music), a reggae-tinged lilting instrumental giving Pee Wee Ellis time to stretch out on tenor saxophone. Rising From The Dust is a power rock ballad with some crunching guitar in the Gary Moore style from American visitor B.D. Lenz and the added vocals of the Kentwood Show Choir, adding up to a number which would sit happily in all kinds of radio setting.
The other tracks range from classic jazz to a couple of unexpected rock/pop reinterpretations. The Nearness Of You gives the Hoagy Carmichael classic a nicely judged out-of-time opening with Ellis backing Cypher’s vocal, before latching onto a slightly-faster-than-you-expect tempo giving the piece a lively air. Comes Love bounces along with Cypher backing her own vocals on tenor sax before guitarist Chris Santo Cobbson takes a cleanly picked solo. Cobbson also contributes A Time To Reflect, A Time To Forget, a sunny-tinged calypso offering Cypher another chance to shine on soprano sax. Breezin’ takes the Bobby Womack tune beloved of Gabor Szabo and lets guitarist Lee Jones loose on it, with Karl Vanden Bossche’s percussion making a great contribution.
As on her first album, Cypher has a way of picking pop tunes which seem to have been done to death and then rethinking them in interesting and imaginative ways. Valerie (The Zutons/Amy Winehouse) finds a place as a bouncing jazz waltz vocal with delicate drum-work from Mike Cypher, while the most requested sax riff in the world, Gerry Rafferty’s Baker Street, turns up the tempo into a pumping instrumental boogie which fairly leaps along. The accompanying cast on this and many of the other tracks includes Alex Steele on piano and Tom Clarke-Hill on bass, who don’t put a foot wrong throughout.
With a wide range of material, engaging arrangements and thoroughly enjoyable performances throughout, this is more than a jazz album… it’s a Kim Cypher album. Catch her when you can – forthcoming London dates include Mill Hill Jazz Club (8 May 2019) and the Bull’s Head, Barnes (24 August 2019).
Here’s a bonus track: