Taken from the press release pack that was sent out with the music:
Established as a jazz and blues vocalist and niche song stylist, Linda Carone presents her fresh recording titled Lemon Twist, supported by a stellar group of musicians. Modern jazz elements flirt with exotic Afro-Cuban textures to create a lively, bold swinging beat that will have you snapping your fingers. For this vintage song siren, this is a collaboration she calls “a mid-century modern jazz fusion tinged with mambo vibes.”
Does that accurately reflect the contents of Lemon Twist? Just how lively and bold have Linda Carone and her musicians been?
The album’s title track kicks things off with the rhythm section laying out the mid-tempo beat and melody. Linda Carone then joins in with clear, well-phrased lyrics that sit well alongside the piano of Jeremy Ledbetter. The Afro-Cuban textures are there and as an opening number this bodes well. ‘Having It All’ has a sultry feel about it, the delivery slinks out and Linda’s vocal lines have a nice timbre about them. ‘Mariguana Cha Cha Cha’ picks up the tempo and the Afro-Cuban elements come to the fore led by Perry White on sax with a light percussive accompaniment from pianist Jeremy Ledbetter.
‘Thrill Me’ has a sixties feel about it with its lilting Latin beats and piano lines, all very pleasant but just how “lively and bold” this style of playing is open to question even with the variation of dynamics being considered. ‘Free And Easy” is another easy-going tune lifted by some very nice playing from Johnny Johnson on sax and Alexander Brown on trumpet. ‘So Many Beautiful Men So Little Time’ opens with nice crisp percussion lines before the sax comes in and softens out the sound. Perry White plays sax well, particularly in the second half of the tune, and Linda’s delivery is clean within a limited use of vocal range but well-phrased.
Things slow down a touch for ‘You Don’t What Love is’ as Linda draws on a wistful tone that fits with the lyric very well. The accompanying playing is all suitably muted with Alexander Brown playing some beautiful trumpet. In terms of style and delivery this is an album standout number and pianist Jeremy Ledbetter shows why he was chosen to play on Lemon Twist. Now, with the title ‘Tabasco’ I was expecting track eight to be a hot, spicey number, unfortunately the temperature is tempered and does not really come to life. There is nothing wrong with the playing or singing, it all just lacks the heat of a more energetic performance.
‘Don’t Be On The Outside’ shifts from the Afro-Cuban styling to one with a bluesier feel and George Koller gets to play a good bass solo. That blues vibe continues into ‘Aged And Mellow Blues’, the tempo ticks over, the sax interjections are well placed and the solo lines nicely played. The rhythm section does a good job and whilst Linda sings with clarity and a good phrasing it is all a little too clean for more liking. The album’s final track goes to ‘Eso Es El Amor’ and we finally get some energy, beautifully clipped phrasing, variations in dynamics and tempo: why did we have to wait?
If I were asked to “sell” Lemon Twist I am not sure where I would pitch it, so I went back to the press pack referred to earlier:
Linda’s interpretation of these rare gems from the cool jazz era are well-stirred on Lemon Twist. Linda stands out among the jazz ‘standards’ with her carefully curated songs, unique phrasing and pure vocal style by making the song and the lyrics her own.
The key words here are “cool jazz” and “pure vocal style”, this album is a little too cool and, at time, the vocals are a little too pure. There is nothing wrong with the musicianship: I like Linda Carone’s diction and phrasing: the rhythm section creates a nice swinging beat, but it is all too tightly curated. This is an easy going Afro-Cuban fused album that could have been so much more than the sum of its parts but it will stay in my collection because, despite any less than positive comments from me, I did enjoy what I heard.
Musicians: Linda Carone – vocals; Jeremy Ledbetter – piano; Luis Orbegoso – percussion; George Koller – bass; Ben Wittman – drums; Alexander Brown – trumpet; Johnny Johnson – saxophone; Perry White – saxophone (tracks 3 & 6)
Mark Kieswetter – song arrangement (track 7)
George Koller – producer
Tracklist: 1. Lemon Twist. 2. Having It All. 3. Mariguana Cha Cha Cha. 4. Thrill Me. 5. Free And Easy. 6. So Many Beautiful Men So Little Time. 7. You Don’t Know What Love Is. 8. Tabasco. 9. Don’t Be On The Outside. 10. Aged And Mellow Blues. 11. Eso Es El Amor.