Wednesday, October 17, 2018

Vanessa Collier Honey Up

Vanessa Collier
Honey Up
Phenix Fire Records

After having her second album on Ruf, Vanessa Collier's latest is a crowd-funded, self-produced CD. The Berklee graduate (with degrees in Performance and Music Production & Engineering) is a threat as a singer, songwriter (she wrote 9 of the ten songs on this) multi-instrumentalist (playing various saxophones as well as guitar on this) and arranger. She has recruited quite a group of musicians for this including Nick Stevens on drums and percussion, Nick Trautmann on bass, Sparky Parker on guitar for several tracks, William Gorman on keyboards, Laura Chavez on guitar (8 of the ten tracks), Quinn Carson on trombone (5 tracks) and Doug Woolverton on trumpet (5 tracks).

Her website notes that she "weaves funk, soul, rock, and blues into every powerful performance," and that is quite evident on the varied musical program here which includes songs ranging from the opening New Orleans flavored "Sweatin' Like A Pig, Singin' Like An Angel," as she shouts about singing in the Southland. Vocally, she impresses with her presence while Laura Chavez blasts a some hot West Coast blues guitar prior to Collier taking a funky tenor sax solo in a King Curtis vein, and then trades fours with Woolverton. It isn't simply the performance of her and the core band, but her arrangement of the horns and the production, all of which is first-rate on this party track. There is more of a party mood on "Don't Nobody Got Time To Waste," with the brassy horns riffing in support set against a jubilant gospel-rooted groove. Gorman is very greasy on the organ while her sax soars against the rest of the band.

The title track is a funky song where she sings about being held up in her relationship and another who wants her to "honey up and kiss his behind." She takes a punchy sax solo while Gorman takes a keyboard solo set against Stevens' driving drumming. "Percolatin'" is a funky instrumental that showcases her funky R&B sax playing. Bassist Trautmann is spotlighted here as well. One of the most interesting, and enjoyable songs here is "Icarus," an imaginative telling of the Greek mythological figure. She plays acoustic guitar (providing an effective sparse backing) behind her melodious singing and a strong short saxophone solo. It is a change of pace from some of the more hard-hitting songs, including "The Fault Line," with more searing guitar from Laura Chavez. There is the effective employment of resonator guitars by Collier and Parker, along with Chavez's focused fretwork on "Bless Your Heart." For variety, there is a touch of country in her vocal on the horn-driven shuffle, "You're a Pill." Again Chavez shines while Collier's booting solo helps ride this track out. "Making lemonade out of lime can get a little crazy… " opens up the New Orleans-Ray Charles flavor on "You Get What You Get."

The album closes with a nice rendition of Chris Smithers' "Love Me Like a Man," that opens as a duet with just Parker's backing before the full band joins in to add punch behind her heartfelt singing and saxophone solo. As a matter of taste, there are a couple songs that I might have preferred a slightly slower tempo or a tad lighter touch on the drums, but I am again impressed by Collier as a singer, saxophonist, songwriter, and a producer. "Honey Do" is a striking recording that will have strong appeal to many.

I received my review copy from a publicist. I have made stylistic changes to the review that originally appeared in the September-October 2018 Jazz & Blues Report (Issue 380). Here she performs "Sweatin' Like A Pig, Singin' Like An Angel."

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