April by April Varner (ENG review)

Cellar Music – Street Date June 28
April by April Varner

This album truly showcases the vocal and artistic qualities of the singer April Varner. We are immediately captivated by the incredible quality of this production, signed by drummer Ulysses Owens Jr., who was introduced to the singer by Theo Bleckmann. “She is one of the most dynamic and studious musicians I have encountered in many years,” reflects Owens Jr. “I have worked with a lot of talented artists, but few possess the work ethic and ambition that April embodies, coupled with her incredible talent. She can sing anything and can transform into any style.” Working together was a natural step, and the two began working in April.

The result is an album with immense charm that one would find hard not to appreciate, convincing both fans of classic jazz and those who enjoy contemporary jazz. April features pianist Caelan Cardello (who is also the album’s arranger), guitarist Russell Malone, bassist Reuben Rogers, drummer Miguel Russell, trumpeter and vocalist Benny Benack III, and tenor and soprano saxophonist Dayna Stephens. When choosing the band, Varner wanted to include musicians who had inspired her. The long history between Varner, Cardello, and Russell is particularly evident in their discernible interaction and close musical connection. In selecting the guests, Owens Jr. played a significant role, shaping the band by suggesting players who would best complement the vocalist.

The alchemy of a good album is there; it is rare for artists alone to achieve such osmosis in a production. Allowing a trusted artist with a global vision of the project to take the lead always yields the best results. Even Miles Davis did not hesitate to entrust his productions to other great artists like Joe Zawinul, Marcus Miller, and many others. Here, April enjoys herself with “April Come She Will,” where it is more the great interpreter than the singer who invites us into a very intimate theme. Like many current vocal artists, April Varner is inspired by various universes that nourish her art. The musicality and melodies are highlighted with surgical precision in the arrangements, serving the artist in the best way possible.

The New York City Jazz Record has hailed this 26-year-old dynamo as a “direct, authentic singer…” who demonstrates “vocal dynamism… authentic jazz phrasing… electrifying numbers” and possesses “a profound command of deep scat and vocalese.” Varner has amassed several viral videos of her challenging solo transcriptions, cleverly crafted vocalises, and a cappella renditions of the Great American Songbook. A graduate of the Manhattan School of Music, where she studied with jazz luminaries like Tierney Sutton, Russell Malone, Sachal Vasandani, Jane Monheit, Kurt Elling, and others, Varner garnered much attention last year by winning the 2023 International Ella Fitzgerald Jazz Vocal Competition.

Thus, it is on June 28th that this incredible CD will be released, and there is no doubt that April Varner will continue to make waves if she stays on this path. There is ample reason to classify this album among our “Essentials.”

Thierry De Clemensat
USA correspondent – Paris-Move and ABS magazine
Editor in chief Bayou Blue Radio, Bayou Blue News

PARIS-MOVE, June 13th 2024

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