Sunny Sumter

Rite of Passage

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Two things are always nice when exploring a project by a new artist: when the artist's demeanor matches their name (so yes, Sunny Sumter has a certain optimism in her sultry voice) and when their commitment to a certain style can rework a familiar song in a fresh way. To that extent, her true test of success comes in a zesty, Brazilian-flavored twist on Chicago's "Does Anybody Really Know What Time It Is." Her arrangement uses the basic melody as a canvas to paint numerous colors on, from chipper percussion chirping, a rich jazz vocal line, and an Edsel Gomez piano solo that erupts almost spontaneously. This version lacks the brassy intensity of the original's horns, but subtle emotions seem to be Sumter's stock in trade. On the opener, "A Little Bit Longer," she infuses her joyful spirit and a jazzy sensibility that makes some of Diana Krall's stuff seem a bit languid; Sumter's scatting ability shines as well. "Nick of Time" is a sparsely arranged spiritual piece that has her trying for the Billie Holiday effect. "Never Let It Go" sounds like a loving outtake from Tuck & Patti. And "Dindi" is a shoo-in for any serious-minded Brazilian-flavored project. The only serious misstep is the title track, whose jangling guitar/percussion groove is used as a foundation for a corny spoken poem by Bro. Yao. It's on a small indie label, but deserves just a bit more attention.

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