Brenda Earle Stokes – Motherhood (ENG review)

Street date May 16th 2024
Brenda Earle Stokes – Motherhood

Yet another lovely project that combines a beautiful voice, that of Brenda Earle Stokes, with excellent musicians to accompany her on this album: Brenda Earle Stokes – Voice & Piano, Ingrid Jensen – Trumpet, Evan Gregor – Bass, Ross Pederson – Drums, Melissa Stylianou & Nicole Zuraitis – Background Vocals. At first, we are surprised by the quality of the compositions on an instrumental level, immediately noticing the excellent trumpet playing by Ingrid Jensen, which, in a form of twinship, complements Brenda Earle Stokes’ voice, inviting us to reflect on motherhood. She shares the journey of motherhood with songs exploring identity, fear, expectations, body image, friendship, and growth. Inspired by her own life as a mother, Stokes began composing this music during the early days of her son’s life, jotting down words in a notebook while walking her son around their New York neighborhood.

This allows us to discover that beyond being a musician and singer, Brenda also skillfully wields the pen, leaning more towards short story writing than poetry, which brings a welcome novelty to the jazz world. I took the time to listen to this album several times, spaced out over days, as I wanted to immerse myself in it before discussing it.

Eight years later, Brenda Earle Stokes was invited to a music residency at the Banff Centre for Arts and Creativity in Alberta, Canada, where she completed most of the songs for this project. Armed with dozens of voice memos saved on her iPhone and journals filled with lyric ideas and observations, she composed eight songs in just nine days.

Immersing oneself in such an album is quite complex, as there is beautiful textual content for a French speaker like me, which requires an effort of understanding. The music also has its own codes, certainly jazz, but not only that; there are passages that might seem borrowed from Satie or Bartok, for example. Therefore, we are never very far from a form of contemporary classical music that wonderfully flirts with the jazz form, with the singing blending into a form of spoken word. Everything is designed to capture the listener in this almost dreamlike world, to the point that we really want to see how it translates on stage, in storytelling or theatricalization, even amusement with “Loose Tooth Blues.” Here we see that Brenda Earle Stokes does not lack humor, and again, a form of romance and tenderness takes us by the hand. We listen and enjoy this track, “Happy Mother’s Day,” which closes the album. In the end, it is quite impressive, complex, pleasant. I particularly like the fact that this artist is unique in her genre and imposes her talent in three distinct forms: composition, writing, and voice. In a similarly fascinating style, we recently discovered singer Andrea Superstein (review on Paris-Move HERE), who is also in this vein, though very different artistically. That a number of women, through their art, speak to us about motherhood is an excellent thing, a way to open our eyes to this aspect of life that each woman experiences very differently, allowing us to elevate our understanding of what motherhood is and what it entails, whether we are men or women. This album is undoubtedly a “must-have” for what it represents and for its artistic quality.

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

PARIS-MOVE, May 16th 2024

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