Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Roberta Flack

Although originally released in 1969, FIRST TAKE languished in obscurity until noted jazz fan Clint Eastwood chose Roberta Flack's haunting, minimalist reinterpretation of Scottish folkie Ewan MacColl's "The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face" to score a love scene in his 1972 film PLAY MISTY FOR ME. Latter-day fans of that single and Flack's later smooth soul hits might be surprised at the overall sound of FIRST TAKE. Recorded with a small combo of jazz giants--guitarist John Pizzarelli, bassist Ron Carter, and drummer Ray Lucas, with Flack on piano--and produced by Atlantic's house eccentric Joel Dorn, FIRST TAKE is a jazz album with soul and pop influences. The recording has more in common with Nina Simone, or even Dorn's work with eclectic reedsman Rahsaan Roland Kirk, than mainstream soul divas of the 1970s. Flack's utterly controlled, elegant vocal style and her churchy piano chords root this album, which has a stately power and deliberate grace even at its most soulful--particularly on a call-and-response version of the spiritual "I Told Jesus" and the heartbreaking "Angelitos Negros."

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