Bria Skonberg: With a Twist

Posted June 15, 2017 by in Jazz



3.5/ 5


Genre: Jazz
Producer: Matt Pierson
Label: Okeh
Format: Digital download, compact disc
Time: 50:00
Release Date: 19 May 2017
Spin This: "Alright, Okay, You Win/ Soul Bossa Nova," "Whatever Lola Wants," "Time to Go"


Saucy salsa and rhythmic arrangements pour over "Alright, Okay" and "Lola." Leonard Cohen's "Dance Me to the End of Love" delights the ear, so does the surprising hot jazz take on Ed Sheeran's "Thinking Out Love"


Although a few creative "twists" are executed, it's still not break the Skonberg's cocktail jazz past the underground

Young jazz sensation spices things up a tad bit on latest venture

by J Matthew Cobb
Full Article

Young jazz sensation spices things up a tad bit on latest venture

briaskonberg-01The future of jazz seems to be in good hands with the comforting presentation of Canadian trumpeter/vocalist Bria Skonberg’s fifth LP, With a Twist. Cementing that success is the confidence that Sony jazz label Okeh has put into this release, her second with the big label. Former Blue Note exec and music producer Matt Pierson (Bob James, Joshua Redman, Kirk Whalum) takes on the full slate of original songs and crafty reworks, placing Skonberg in an environment of adept musicians and challenging, but rewarding pieces.

It’s quite easy to suggest why Skonberg, now a Juno winner, is a formidable rising star in the jazz world just by this effort alone. The thirteen-track album is bright, oftentimes bubbly and playful. Cuts like the speedy opener “My Baby Just Cares for Me” and the New Orleans jazz-injected cover of Ed Sheeran’s “Thinking Out Loud” easily carry a charismatic, carefree quality. Even better is hearing “Alright, Okay, You Win” being injected with interpolations of Quincy Jones’ “Soul Bossa Nova,” contemporarily associated with the Austin Powers comedy franchise. Even when she teases sensual bossa nova and Latin salsa with “Whatever Lola Wants,” the sweet charm of Skonberg and its arrangement feels like innocent, toy-like flirtation. Much of that assessment relies on her voice, which can easily be described as laidback Nancy Wilson or a cooled-down Shirley Bassey. There’s no bombastic shock to her movements, not to say she can’t execute it. But she simply doesn’t go there, relying on more youthful pop pizzazz and less soul. She only hits a moment of somber awakening when she eases into lounge jazz on her take on Leonard Cohen’s “Dance Me to the End of Love.” It opens with a muted trumpet and later slides into an intimate smooth jazz layout graced with serenading vocals and Matt Wilson’s spaced-out drum brushing.

Put on a solid check mark on the fresh cuts. The new material, co-authored by Skonberg, seems to be compatible with the classic standards offered. “How I Know” is sandwiched with witty lyricism (“Hanging on the high line/We’re on cloud nine/Stars exploding in our eyes”) and Skonberg’s trumpet solos. “Same Kind of Crazy” isn’t as saucy as “Lola,” but it serves as an complimentary encore. The mostly instrumental album closer, “Time to Go,” is simply bad-ass, a fitting cool, uptempo jam powered by Evan Arntzen’s tenor sax, Scott Colley’s upright bass and Sullivan Fortner’s dexterous piano.

Older, matured generations of jazz aficionados may not quickly gravitate to With a Twist on first listen. It’s heavily seasoned as cocktail jazz, even with the throwbacks. Plus she’s a young hot blonde, which means she has to work twice as hard to prove herself to the titans at the top. But she has the talent and the skill set to do that. With a Twist, although it needs a little more twist in the innovation department, is all the ammunition Skonberg needs.

About the Author

J Matthew Cobb

Managing editor of HiFi Magazine


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