Nnenna Freelon – Homefree

Nnenna Freelon
Homefree
Concord Jazz – April 2010

Homefree is a soulful, swinging album that Freelon calls her “home brew.” The collection is comprised largely of contemporary interpretations of classic American Songbook tunes as well as a new original (the witty, playful and poignant “Cell Phone Blues” composed by the singer) and spirited arrangements of two anthems (the gospel treasure “Life Every Voice and Sing” and the national hymn “America the Beautiful”) that close the album.

Homefree opens with a brisk swing through “The Lamp Is Low,” followed by the laid-back and easy-flowing arrangement-of “I Feel Pretty,” the-Leonard Bernstein-Stephen Sorydhefrn West Side Story dassic that features Ray Codrington’s soulful flugelhorn lines. The latter has been in the band’s set-list for some five years, including a jazz show at the Kennedy Center for Miss America contestants and their escorts.

“Most of the songs on Homefree are part of our repertoire,” says Freelon. “We’ve tested them on the road, getting insight on what works and what doesn’t by looking at how our audiences respond. That’s different from many recordings where you start at the studio and tour the music. The way we recorded this CD meant that the music was deeper in our bones. It also shows how the way we originally played the tunes gradually changed shape. These are all songs that were well-tested and loved and ready to record.”

Other highlights include a soulful groove through of “You and the Night and the Music,” arranged by drummer Kinah Ayah; a skipping, reggae-tinged rendition of Cole Porter’s “Get Out of Town,” that was arranged jointly by the band turning the standard upside down during a sound check; and, a new tune to the band’s set, the rarely covered Andre Previn-written beauty, “Theme from Valley of the Dolls.” Nnenna will be touring in support of her new release.