“To listen is to know and to know is to love,” Emma-Jean Thackray intones near the start of her inaugural full-length release, Yellow
— and the line neatly sums up the appeal of the exciting music throughout. The youthful British trumpeter, vocalist and multi-instrumentalist exudes confidence and panache as she joyously ignores genre boundaries, merging jazz fusion, funk, electronic dance music and pop into a vibrant creation that nods to the past but feels like the future.
“Mercury,” the lead-off track, sets the stage for the adventures to follow, as Thackray’s trumpet lines flow in, around and through waves of sound that merge synthesizers with violin, viola, cello, sousaphone and bass clarinet. Only after the tension has been drawn almost unbearably taut do voices arrive, introducing notes of reassurance amid the wondrous chaos that lead naturally into “Say Something,” during which Thackray and company offer lyrics that eschew superficiality. “If you must speak,” they croon with beguiling exuberance, “show us your mind.”
Most of the tracks induce body movement. Take “Venus,” with its skittering, syncopated rhythms and a bright call-and-response chorus in which the title goddess is celebrated for lighting the darkness; and “Sun,” a soul-dripping mid-tempo stunner that promises, “Brighter days are coming.” But Thackray offers more than party-starters. On “Spectre,” a moody, atmospheric showcase, Lyle Barton’s Fender Rhodes offers the ideal corollary for the literally haunting storyline, while “Golden Green” serves as a shimmering slow-burn salute to a paramour who smells of “biscuits and weed.”
At the same time, the title cut is built on nothing more than voices, percussion and ballpark-style organ that Thackray plays as if she were filling out the seventh-inning stretch. This combination sounds absurd, but it’s actually pure bliss, just like the rest of Thackray’s thrilling debut.