Angie Wells began her singing career in an intimate little supper club in St. Germain des Pres in Paris when she joined the trio playing that night for a few tunes. Since then she has returned to France to tour with French pianist Raphael Lemonnier. Wells qualified as a semi-finalist in the first annual Sarah Vaughan International Vocal Competition and has played and recorded in the US with some of LA’s best jazz musicians. Truth Be Told is the follow-up album to her debut release Love and Mischief (2017).
The first track is a lively R&B jazz number with a strong front line, good rhythm section and, of course, the leading vocal of Angie Wells. This is a real toe-tapping number that would get any room moving when played live – a very good opening tune! ‘Do I Move You’ moves into a slow blues with terrific guitar playing from Larry Koonse supported by Josh Nelson at the piano. Angie uses her vocal range to very good effect and her phrasing is spot on. ‘Where The Living Is Good’ shifts the music stylistically again and Kye Palmer adds the warm tones of the flugelhorn. The storytelling here is excellent with an enjoyable walking bass line, which I always like to hear.
‘Truth Be Told’ has a gospel/torch song feel about it with the lyrics being born out of the news of George Floyd’s death in 2020. This is a powerful song that should be heard and the delivery is sublime. It is lyrically clear in its message without an overt show of anger that could undermine the words being sung. ‘ Accentuate The Positive’ is, I guess, a way of stating that whatever happens there is still something we can hang onto to help us move forward. Jacob Scesney has some wonderful sax lines and Angie’s delivery is full of energy. ‘Nick of Time’ starts with guitar and piano setting out the melody before Angie comes in on vocals. This is another story led number with a relaxed jazz style backing track that works very well.
Guitarist Larry Koonse introduces the reflective ‘Here’s To Life’. Angie’s portrays the story with a world weary edge on this evocative slow paced ballad. The emotion is up front and centre on this number and the instrumentation is subtly delivered so as not to upset the balance of this beautiful tune. ‘Talkin’ Under My Clothes’ has a delicious vocal/bass introduction that opens out to a mid-tempo number with Ivan Malespin leading on the trombone – and he produces a great sound. The piano takes over with good bass support from Trevor Ware while drummer Clayton Cameron keeps the rhythm ticking over nicely.
‘You Don’t Know What Love Is’ shows off Angie’s smokey well-rounded voice to very good effect and against the bowed bass of John Clayton; delightful. This is another powerful delivery and it is the space between the words, that use of silence, that make it so. ‘Moanin’/Work Song Medley’ will be a very familiar tune to listeners of jazz music but this arrangement, with its use of the Hammond B3, played by Carey Frank, and the flute of Katisse Buckingham, ensure that it does not sound over-familiar! The tempo is taken down a notch or three for another captivating ballad in ‘I Wish I’d Met You’. The vocal diction is so clear – and the wonderful use of the tonal palette – the piano accompaniment delicate, the barely there brushwork, everything in beguiling harmony: outstanding!
‘They Can’t Take That Away From Me’ is a short playful take on this well-known number with just two voices and a smile-inducing delivery. The final track on Truth Be Told has been hinted at with short excerpts delivered in different styles dotted throughout the album. Track sixteen is the full band vocal version of ‘I’ve Got A Feeling’ with its Gospel sound complete with backing vocals. The number is short and an upbeat, positive way of bringing the album to a close.
Angie Wells is a new voice to me but one I thoroughly enjoyed hearing. Her band work very well with her and her producer sums up the project very well with these words:
Not only is this album intimate and personal for Angie, it shows off her excellent musicianship. When combined with her stellar, sensitive, soulful and swinging musicians, they all knock the entire project out of the park! We so appreciate Angie’s storytelling and her work as a guide through these chapters. What fun to be a part of her artistic life and witness her make things come alive when she sings. Thank you, Angie.”Producer and bassist John Clayton
Truth Be Told got its worldwide release 24th February, 2023, and I would have no hesitation in suggesting that you check it out.
Musicians: Angie Wells – vocals; Katisse Buckingham – flute (12); Clayton Cameron – drums; Carey Frank – Hammond B3 (12) Larry Koonse – guitar (1, 2, 8); Ivan Malespin – trombone (1,9); Josh Nelson – piano; Kye Palmer – flugelhorn (3), trumpet (1); Jacob Scesney – tenor sax (1, 5); Trevor Ware – bass.
Lynne Fiddmont – background vocals (4, 16), snaps and claps (4); Valerie Geason – background vocals (4, 16), snaps and claps (4).
Special Guests: John Clayton – bass (11) and album producer; Zion G – vocals (15).
Tracklist: 1. There’s Always Time For Lovin’. 2. Do I Move You. 3. Where The Livin’ Is Good. 4. Truth Be Told. 5. Accentuate The Positive. 6. I’ve Got A Feeling (Hymn Version). 7. Nick Of Time. 8. Here’s To Life. 9. Talkin’ All Under My Clothes. 10. I’ve Got A Feeling (Humming Version). 11. You Don’t Know What Love Is. 12. Moanin’/Work Song Medley. 13. I Wish I’d Met You. 14. I’ve Got A Feeling (Music Box Version). 15. They Can’t Take That Away From Me. 16. I’ve Got A Feeling (Full Band/Vocal Version).