Queen Esther – Things Are Looking Up (ENG review)

EL recordings – Street Date April 9th 2024
Jazz, Soul
Queen Esther

Oh! A gem exclaimed within me as I listened to the first track of this album “Blow, Blossom,” a jazz-infused piece that flirts with the blues, for there’s something profound and a hidden form of pain in Queen Esther’s voice. Queen Esther’s creative production on the musical front is the result of several critical elements from the South, including years of recording and international touring as the lead vocalist of several projects with her mentor, the harmolodic guitar icon James “Blood” Ulmer, including a stint in his iconic group Odyssey. Raised in Atlanta, Georgia, and rooted in the Lowcountry of Charleston, South Carolina – a region with African traditions and African-American customs dating back centuries, constantly influencing her work.
This intensity is likely what sets this album apart; either you’ll embrace it, or you’ll reject it, as one cannot remain indifferent. There’s a heartfelt cry in this artist that cannot leave us unmoved. Being an actress as well, she evidently has a knack for offering such masterful interpretations. While the overall ambiance may sound somewhat retro, the interpretation is very contemporary. Queen Esther uses her Southern roots as a starting point to explore cultural norms in America, deconstructing well-worn historical narratives while creating a sound landscape focused on reappropriation.
What’s clear is her quest to adhere to her own story and more broadly to the history of African-American jazz. Indeed, her journey leaves no doubt on the matter. Queen Esther’s recent work includes headlining at Lincoln Center’s 2022 Summer for the City with her western swing collective The Black Rose of Texas (featuring Queen Esther, Kat Edmonson, and Synead Cidney Nichols on vocals, and the legendary Cindy Cashdollar on pedal steel guitar), followed by a performance workshop at Jazz at Lincoln Center, and later that year, a sold-out weekend of shows at Dizzy’s Club Coca Cola; as well as a 2022 New York City Women’s Fund grant for Media, Music, and Theatre for Blackbirding, an alt-country album – written during a multimedia artist residency at Gettysburg National Military Park.
If you’re sensitive to this form of authenticity, this album will grip you, for even listening to it casually, there will always be a moment where you’ll perk up, not out of curiosity, but out of necessity. Nothing on this album is left to chance, enriched by beautifully crafted arrangements and a remarkable simplicity that highlights the artist. “Things Are Looking Up” is an album more than likely essential for anyone who loves beautiful voices and beautiful interpretations.

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

PARIS-MOVE, March 11th 2024


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