Across the Bridge
(MPG Records – mpgcd020)
Ducomble studied jazz at Guildhall; previous releases featuring the likes of Gilad Atzmon and Chris Garrick have established her on the UK jazz circuit, and she’s appeared alongside Jacqui Dankworth and Tina May as part of the Jazz Diva series, and as part of Georgia Mancio’s Revoice series. The twelve original compositions on this record occupy a stylistic territory closer to the jazz-tinged folk songwriting of Joni Mitchell, or more mainstream accessible figures like Katie Melua; singing in both English and her native French, Ducomble brings in flavours of Piazzola tango (Like A Bridge Across Your Heart) chanson waltz (Les Roses Et Leurs Epines) mellow latin rhythms (Tell Me Today) jaunty trad swing (Circus) and a polite strain of cafe blues (Is This It) that evokes another jazz-tinged pop chanteuse, Rikki Lee Jones. Ducomble’s voice is a delight; an accurate instrument on the scat sections that embellish tunes like the gently swaying Ride, warm and intimate on ballads like Forest Boy, pure and clear throughout. The arrangements are brought to life by the outstanding band, with drummer Saleem Raman deserving special mention for injecting some dynamic energy without ever overwhelming the delicate balance of the music. The reserve, restraint and sheer good taste evident throughout sometimes rather dull the emotional impact and those seeking the grittier confessional tradition of, for instance, Billie Holiday, should probably look elsewhere, but there is no denying the sincerity, skill and accomplishment on display; Ducomble is a class act, and this is a well conceived and executed showcase for her considerable talents. The cover art, a photographic collage of Monet’s Le Pont Japonais, is the perfect packaging for this appealing record.
Gabrielle Ducomble, vocals, piano, melodica; Nicolas Meier, guitar; Richard Jones, viola; Nick Kacal, bass; Saleem Raman – drums