MARY FOSTER CONKLIN — Photographs (review)

MARY FOSTER CONKLIN — Photographs album cover Album · 2016 · Vocal Jazz Buy this album from MMA partners
3.5/5 ·
js
With so many female jazz vocalists performing these days how can an artist stand out? While other instrumentalists may use pyrotechnics to impress, this is not always a wise route for vocalists where extreme performance can be more annoying than endearing. On her new album, “Photographs”, Mary Foster Conklin wisely avoids any attempt to grandstand with her voice, but instead pulls you in with her ability to convey a story as she presents an interesting and complex personality that you want to hear more from. Some compare Conklin’s sense of story to cabaret, and there is some truth to that, but she has more in common with story oriented folk-jazz artists like Joni Mitchell and Paul Simon than old school cabaret.

It helps that care was taken to give each song its own sound. There is a core rhythm section on most tracks, but many songs also feature additional instrumentalists, on sax, muted cornet or guitar, who intertwine with Conklin’s voice. The song selection is also superb with very few overplayed selections. Five tracks feature the lyrics of beat poet Fran Landesman, while other tracks feature writers like Paul McCartney, Joni Mitchell and Oscar Brown Jr. “Photographs” will grow on you, and that’s mostly because of Mary’s personality. She is a master of conveying world-weary bitter sweet emotions, tempered with an odd unlikely sense of optimism.
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