Lenora Zenzalai Helm

Voice Paintings

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Excellent pacing, diversity of tunes, quality sound, and solid musicianship characterize these twelve selections featuring vocalist Lenora Helm, whose sultry style and relaxed persona are a delightful respite from the travails of life. While there are occasional problems with intonation, the vocalist's confident swagger on the upbeat tunes and soulful rendering of the slower pieces mitigate any deficiencies. Helm attracts some major support from trumpeter Duane Eubanks, alto saxophonist Antonio Hart, and tenor saxophonist Abraham Burton, each of whom solos on a couple of tracks. Helm contributed the lyrics on four numbers ("Inner Voices," "Exchange," "Push," and "Firewind,") the first two for which she also wrote the music, and thankfully her writing eschews common cliché-like simplicity in favor of subtle sophistication. Most comfortable in the middle range, Helm appears equally at home scatting or simply reciting the melody, something she does passionately and inventively. On the Gershwin track ("My Man's Gone Now," and "The Man I Love,") her operatic influences hold sway as she shows an ability to reach the higher notes without difficulty. Her tour de force may be the final track, Billy Strayhorn's "A Flower is a Lonesome Thing," on which her voice is overdubbed so that provides all the background harmony and the lead vocal part, sounding much like the Singers Unlimited," but of course with her own stamp.

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