Jazz chanteuse/songwriter Carmen Lundy was introduced by the Rev. Peter F. O’Brien as the exception to the rule that pop singers are expected to do originals and jazz performers are supposed to interpret established material. The material proved melodically inventive, if repetitious, providing ample room for improvisation by the singer and the plethora of talented instrumentalists that flowed on and off the stage during the course of the evening. By concert’s end, the performances had outdistanced the material.
Beginning the 19-song show with “Time Is Love,” accompanied only by keyboardist Billy Childs, Lundy demonstrated vibrant vocal quality, effortless range and a composition style that favored complex intervals rather than simple diatonic melody lines. Her lyrics proved to be introspective and philosophical, if not memorable.
This lady is certainly generous, offering expansive showcases for her musicians. “In Love Again” and “Where’d It Go” featured nicely textured alto sax solos by Bobby Watson; “Wild Child,” underscored by the fluid acoustic bass riff of Carmen’s brother, Curtis Lundy, and “Afrasia” were stretched into jam sessions highlighted by the soprano sax work of Mark Shim.
One of the more impressive aspects of the concert was the shifting texture of synergistic instrumental accompaniment behind Lundy. Trap drummers Marvin “Smitty” Smith and Victor Lewis, along with Latin percussionist Mayra Casales, showed seamless rapport as they drove such swingers as “All Day, All Night” and the show-closing “(I Dream) in Living Color.” Trombonist Steve Turre also exhibited impressive skill with a series of conch shells, offering ethereal support on “One More River to Cross.” And the youthful L.A. String Quartet (from CalArts) was incorporated beautifully into “Something to Believe in,” “Better Days” and “Afrasia.”
If Carmen Lundy’s aim was to showcase her songs, she should have created a less-flamboyant showcase. But if her desire was to gather with a lot of other worthy talent and simply swing, she certainly accomplished that onstage at the Madrid Theater.