Natalia M. King – Bluezzin T’il Dawn (Challenge)
With her previous album Soulblazz, singer-guitarist Natalia M. King found her artistic niche, exploring the timeless realm where blues and jazz intersect. King navigates similar terrain on this follow-up release, and the results are even more impressive. The new album consists mostly of original love songs, some evoking Bessie Smith and Billie Holiday, while others are more contemporary and suggestive of Cassandra Wilson.
An American who lives in France, King is backed here by a talented group of Paris-based musicians: trumpeter Ronald Baker, reed player Xavier Sibre, bassist Anders Ulrich, pianist Anthony Honnet and drummer Davy Honnet. This versatile combo marries trad jazz with bluesy post-bop, forging a simpatico complement to King’s impassioned singing.
The opening track, “Traces in the Sand,” is an attention grabber. A sultry reminiscence about a lost relationship, the song gathers steam as King’s languid phrasing turns full-throated and the horns roar. “Insatiable” is a Nat Cole-like melody with a spirited chorus. A catchy spiritual with overdubbed background vocals, “You Came and Go” features Sibre’s expressive flute playing. Baker’s muted trumpet gives “Little Bit of Rain” a noir feeling as King’s poignant singing brings a touch of optimism to Fred Neil’s wistful lyrics.
King is a seeker, both musically and personally. A Brooklyn native who studied medieval history, she traveled extensively across the United States before settling in Los Angeles and playing in a blues-rock band. On a whim, King decided to fly to Paris, where she busked in metro stations until French TV channel Canal+ made her the subject of a documentary. Thanks to her TV exposure, she was tapped to open for Diana Krall and subsequently landed a record deal.
King sings the blues with genuine emotion. Her performance here is so heartfelt, it should earn her wider recognition in the United States, one of her chief goals as an artist.
— Ed Kopp