Cliff Monear

Different Skies

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    9
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AllMusic Review by

Around Flint, MI music circles, this ensemble (known for many years before the alt rock group of the same name as Oasis) has been stopping audiences dead in their tracks, she with her stunning vocal treatments, he with sensitive and lyrical piano accompaniment. This is their first CD, bringing to the forefront many years of experience performing together, honing their craft. They surrealistically combine pop, mainstream and romantic jazz, Brazilian and progressive elements into an articulate, attractive, spellbinding mix that is never wanting for deep, soulful inspiration. Showcased on every selection is Monear's acrobatic voice, imbued with a depth and character that can only be compared to Sarah Vaughan. Her instrument is that resonant, flexible, and charged with a hypnotic, low-end sensuality. She's also quite a lyricist, penning words to Ralph Towner's "Icarus" and Freddie Hubbard's "Little Sunflower." Her penchant for late-night creep is exemplified on "Fever," while the south of the border temptation comes through on "I've Got You Under My Skin," "How Insensitive," the hotter samba of "Windmills of My Mind," and more Afro-Cuban on "Afro Blue" in 6/8. Cliff's cascading, instinctively right piano is always on the money, never intruding, but always bright and punctual in time and personal color shadings. Bassist Nick Calandro and drummer Ennix Buchanan play what's needed for support's sake.

If singers like Dianne Reeves, Rachelle Ferrell, or Nnenna Freelon hear this they'll be very ill, for Monear outdoes them all in terms of soul and style. She's not going to be a big star, but she uses every ounce of her talent. Even more sick is that this is only a sliver of their repertoire -- there's much more in the vault. Whether the world or general public will ever hear it is only a matter of time.