Born into a musical family, jazz artist Sylvia Brooks started on her musical path at a young age. Releasing her first album in 2009, Brooks boasts a long and lucrative professional career, with highlights including a spot on Bob Parlocha’s Top 50 jazz albums list, a collaboration with Grammy Nominated Kim Richmond, and accolades from veteran producer and jazz historian Arnaldo Desouteiro. This year Brooks brings us her fourth studio album. Titled Signature, this all-original collection of songs is a comprehensive look into the songwriting abilities and innate musical skill that Brooks undoubtedly possesses.
Opening with Your Heart Is As Black As Night, Brooks introduces herself as a strong and persuasive vocalist with a remarkable amount of control. Rich vibrato and and a dark tone set the stage for this track, with a full-bodied accompaniment from her band. Technical skill and musical cohesion are everywhere from the opening measures as we’re treated to a smoky serenade that leans in a soul/R&B direction at times.
Indeed, Brooks’ voice is a highlight throughout much of the album. The bouncy and classically jazz melody of the following track Catch 22 is very well suited to her vocal style. Much can also be said about the songwriting in this track; it’s a complex and inviting story of a tantalizing love that almost was. The lyrics are simple, digestible, but clear and most definitely written with intention in this style:
“You walk past her
Your nerves are shot
But you’re on fire”
Delicate and heartfelt, Over and Done offers a classic ballad moment. Lead mostly by piano, the track is fairly light in production as compared to many others on the project. But it’s most certainly by design as it allows Brook’s soaring vocal performance to sit at the heart of this track, which brings an exceptional amount of emotion and authenticity to the piece.
Sixteen is no doubt a stand-out moment on the album. A close listen reveals the message in this track is motherly advice to a teenage daughter, walking the line between commentary, suggestion, and support. The classic jazz feel of this track’s rhythm brings moments of tension and uncertainty into the arrangement which beautifully complements and enhances the theme. It’s a stellar showing of combining high-level songwriting and high-level musicianship to great effect.
We also love The Boy That Lived There for its heart-wrenching story and the haunting arrangement that accompanies it, as well as the closing track Boogie Street for its enchanting a cappella intro.
Sultry, smooth, and unendingly compelling, the work of Sylvia Brooks stands tall as some of the most remarkable jazz music ever to arrive in our inbox. The tracks of Signature are timeless in both composition and performance, drawing listeners in with story after story brought to life by exquisite musicianship. Jazz fans would do well not to sleep on this phenomenal album.
BELOW: Listen to Signature nd connect with her website and social media platforms. Please support Sylvia Brooks by visiting her online, and playing, downloading, and/or purchasing her music, or attending a live show! And, as always, thank you for supporting real music!