At WSJ on Kandace Springs Indigo

‘Indigo’ by Kandace Springs Review: Adding Emotion Through Precision

On her new release, the soulful jazz pianist and vocalist is self-assured, distinctive and strikingly contemporary.

Kandace Springs
Kandace Springs PHOTO: JEFF FORNEY

Pianist and vocalist Kandace Springs is a practitioner of soulful jazz, a hybrid genre whose exemplars include Anita Baker, Andy Bey, Angela Bofill, Roberta Flack, Phyllis Hyman, Mica Paris, Sade, Gil Scott-Heron and Nina Simone. Most of those artists—as well as Ella Fitzgerald and Luther Vandross—influence the music on her stellar new release, “Indigo” (Blue Note), out this week. Yet the 29-year-old sounds self-assured, distinctive and strikingly contemporary, mostly free of the long shadows of her idols.

Ms. Springs’s father is the Nashville-based session singer Scat Springs, who performed with Aretha Franklin, Chaka Khan and many other greats. Prince saw a YouTube clip of hers in 2014, and he invited Ms. Springs to participate in the concert celebrating the 30th anniversary of “Purple Rain.” That same year she collaborated with Ghostface Killah on two tracks from his album “36 Seasons.” Her full-length debut, “Soul Eyes,” was released in 2016.

“Indigo” is her second full-length recording and an impressive showcase for her range and interests. There’s very little gospel-inspired thunder in Ms. Springs’s lithe alto. Instead, she attracts the listener with her precision. She enunciates meticulously and creates miniature narratives within many of her songs—minutely altering the inflections on each vowel, which adds emotional depth.

The recording moves deftly from midtempo songs like the first track, “Don’t Need the Real Thing,” into slower-paced material that highlights her vocal prowess. A cover of Gabriel Garzón-Montano’s glacially paced “6 8” offers more delicate inflections to the lyrics than the original, plus exceptional atmospheric backing from flutist Elena Pinderhughes.

“Unsophisticated,” a song written by Ms. Springs, Evan Rogers and Carl Sturken, reads like an extension of the Hoagy Carmichael/Ned Washington standard “The Nearness of You.” At a gentle, loping tempo, Ms. Springs’s voice grows softer and raspier as Roy Hargrove’s trumpet percolates behind her singing. Many of the songs on the recording celebrate the bliss of romance, but “Love Sucks” offers an effective retort. Another Springs/Rogers/Sturken track, the song is a uptempo lament on the insatiable power of attraction in which the vocalist alternates between seductively welling her voice into one verse and then tersely recoiling into the next.

Two vintage covers provide the biggest highlights of the recording. Ms. Springs’s spin on the Thom Bell/Linda Creed soul classic “People Make the World Go ’Round” features nimble scat singing, and Nicholas Payton, best known as a leading trumpeter, responds with spry variations on the bass. Her take on “The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face” follows in the rather large footsteps of Ms. Flack’s version of the Ewan MacColl torch song yet succeeds. Ms. Springs’s subtle modulations of her voice and Jesse Harris’s guitar deepen the emotion. It’s the tune that Prince asked her to play at the anniversary concert.

Mr. Johnson writes about jazz for the Journal.

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About jmartin437

I've worked in and around the world of high end cheese for 27 years. I've been everything from a department manager who hired and fired and trained staffs to a weekend warrior who shows up ties on an apron the middle of a rush and talks to customers and cleans up the place. I enjoy it all, and I especially like my current situation conducting informal seminars about cheese at area bars and in class at the 92nd St. Y. The current schedule is always up at thejoyofcheese.blogspot.com. In addition I conduct private events that are perfect to lead off birthday parties for foodies and sommeliers and also they make great entertainment for corporate team building events and associates meetings at law firms. In addition, I've been a freelance journalist for 27 years. Currently my profiles of leading musicians and filmmakers appear in the Wall Street Journal and www.theroot.com. I also wrote about sports for the Root, and for five loooong years, which included the entirety of the Isiah Thomas Knicks era, I wrote about the NBA for the New York Sun. I enjoyed writing about basketball so much that I now do it here at rotations for free.
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