Sunny Sumter


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Another entry in the already well-populated field of good, young singers is Washington, D.C.-based Sunny Sumter. Her second album, but first for Maryland's Mapleshade Records, includes a playlist designed to take advantage of Sumter's seductive, soulful, and supple voice, with the emphasis on soulful. The somber mood is established from the outset by Sumter's own "Nick of Time," about a conversation taking place in Washington, D.C. with references to unhappy, escapist excursions to the Jefferson Memorial, the White House, and other D.C. landmarks. What makes this tune work is the Keter Betts jagged bass beat supporting Sumter. Even the usual ebullient Stevie Wonder is represented on the album by a very pensive, chamber music rendition of his "Overjoyed." Budd Johnson's venerable swing tune "Save Your Love for Me," in the hands of Sumter and her confreres, turns out to be one of the most soulful tunes on the CD. There's a break in the overcast musical weather with an upbeat, swinging version of "The Best Is Yet to Come" brought to life by Jimmy Cobb's brush work. Sumter can swing and the failure to include some more bouncy arrangements is puzzling. Sumter's voice becomes less soulful on the Duke Ellington-Billy Strayhorn masterpiece "Daydream." With just Larry Willis' piano and Keeter Betts' bass in support, she delivers a very cool but thoughtful handling of this fine melody. Betts solo on this cut is one of the masterful moments on the album. Sumter renders "Detour Ahead" and Horace Silver's "Lonely Woman" in a chamber music setting with the string quintet. Her supporting cast is first class. Bass player Keter Betts and drummer Jimmy Cobb are veterans of groups which have backed other fine singers. With Betts, it was mostly Ella Fitzgerald, and Cobb with Dinah Washington, Sarah Vaughan, and Lorez Alexandria, among others. Larry Willis, who did the arrangements, is unfailing on piano, accentuating Sumter's vocal talent. Joe Ford's soprano saxophone shows up on "Lonely Woman" and "Detour Ahead," and his tenor on "The Best Is Yet to Come." Sunny Sumter's warm voice and the way she it uses it to work the lyrics should take her a long way as a singer. Hopefully, the producers of her next album will see fit to include more uptempo numbers.

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