Carmen Lundy at Blues Alley
The Washington Post, Mike Joyce
April 12, 2004
Like her kindred spirits Abbey Lincoln and Dianne Reeves, jazz vocalist Carmen Lundy always leaves the impression that she'd rather not sing at all than sing a tune that means nothing to her. The lyrics needn't be deep -- something bright and clever will do just fine -- but as Lundy demonstrated Saturday at Blues Alley, she's far more enamored of quality songcraft than of her own voice.
Accompanied by a responsive trio, Lundy spent the opening set conjuring moods that ranged from the sunny and smitten, via a brisk reprise of "It Might As Well Be Spring," to the somber and achingly poignant, via a piano-only arrangement of "I Loves You Porgy." Punctuating the pop standards were appealing tunes composed by Lundy, and though she sometimes improvised with freewheeling spirit, her voice erupting with sax-like phrases over a rhythmically turbulent backdrop, she never sounded insincere or indulgent. "This isn't prepared, this is jazz," she said at one point, catching her breath between tunes.
Lundy's repertoire aims to please, inspire and engage listeners, and it succeeds. A spiritual current sometimes runs through her lyrics, while the familiar songs she favors often spark playful or passionate interpretations. Her trio -- her brother, bassist Curtis Lundy, pianist Orrin Evans and drummer Jason Brown -- proved a big asset with neatly tailored solos and rhythmically vibrant ensemble support.