Gabrielle Goodman

Travelin' Light

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Sounding like a combination of Sarah Vaughan and Chaka Khan seasoned with a dash of Roberta Flack, Gabrielle Goodman is joined by a motley crew of modern musicians, swoops, scats, and whoops through a playlist of standards and originals, one of them by Goodman herself. For the most part, it seems that the arrangements, including those of the standards, are "popularized." That is, they have been designed to be attractive to fans of contemporary popular music. One exception is the Gershwin Brothers' "Someone to Watch Over Me," where Goodman opens the verse with just Kevin Eubanks' subdued guitar (one of few subdued moments on this disc) behind her. Additional instrumentation, especially Gary Thomas' tenor, joins in for a very relaxed chorus. (Thomas and his saxophones are very prominent on this disc.) But on most of the cuts, Goodman's voice soars to the heavens. "Over the Rainbow" becomes a bop aria, and on "Travelin' Light," her voice becomes a horn, competing with Thomas' tenor for the dominating position on this tune. Goodman's rendition will not remind anyone of Judy Garland's. The Goodman composed "Manila" is a major production. The pulse is established by drummer Buddy Williams' back beat. Barry Miles' synthesizer weaves in and out with Goodman's voice as she overdubs the background vocals. Clifford Brown's "Blues Walk" flirts with the avant-garde, as Goodman sings wordless vocals, Thomas' serendipitous sax wailing with her. This tune, with Goodman and Thomas as a two-person ensemble, is one of the album's highlights. Once more she relies on the laid-back guitar of Eubanks in her thoughtful, emotional offering of "Don't Explain," another of the album's strong performances. Many will have to give this album more than a single play before fully appreciating it, but they will assuredly be drawn to Goodman's wide-ranging, unusual but haunting presentation of the music. Travelin' Light will be particularly appreciated by those who prize a singer willing to take some major risks. [Fortunately, the lyrics are reprinted in the liner notes.]

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