There is an impressive history behind Nightshade, the self-produced debut CD by San Francisco based vocalist and arranger Andrea Claburn. Rather than rushing into the studio to record early on in her performing career, she chose to wait until she became something that singers too often are not – a well rounded musician. After studying with respected vocal coach Raz Kennedy and earning a Bachelor of Music degree in Jazz Studies at the California Jazz Conservatory in Berkeley where she was awarded the Mark Murphy Vocal Scholarship, Andrea Claburn has given us a solid record, with five original compositions and her own strong arranging imprint on every track.
The entire collection of 12 songs was recorded in only three days, a testament to the patience and attention to detail she obviously took in preparing. This is certainly not a record that sounds like it was rushed.
The disc opens with a splashy and percussive intro to her original song “Lionheart,” written for her six year old daughter. Claburn’s voice is mature, confident and clear. Her opening lyric, “She dances into the room, she’s the sun and the moon to me” establishes the self assured and intensely personal tone of this project.
Pat Metheny’s “Bird On A Wire” follows, with a multi colored drum intro by Alan Hall. The vocal doubles with Terence Brewer on guitar until Brewer, Kasey Knudsen on alto sax, and Matt Clark on Fender Rhodes take turns delivering superb solos. Her voice combines nuanced shading and an emotional connection to the lyrics while staying true to the written line.
A New Orleans funk/groove feel follows on her original song “My Favorite Flavor.” which percolates along with a fun, satisfying lilt and the very tasty arrangement for four horns. Three quarters of the way through it very effectively kicks into a solid swing, then smoothly shifts back to the shuffle feel.
Ellington’s “Infinite Wisdom (Echoes of Harlem)” follows, and once again Andrea’s vocals and bold arrangement combine with excellent percussion on bongos by John Santos. The vocal/percussion interlude is very nicely realized, and the entire track is slinky and smart. There is some gorgeous vocal and trumpet doubling at the end.
“Turn Out The Stars” by Bill Evans follows, and Claburn wisely chooses to give it a straight forward treatment, letting the beauty of the composition stand on its own merit.
The chestnut “After You’ve Gone” has an amusing, light-hearted quality with a reggae like feel with Terrence Brewer contributing some outstanding comping on guitar. Once again the arrangement serves the approach and material very well.
Hoagy Charmichael and Johnny Mercer’s “Skylark” is next, and opens with drummer Alan Hall deftly tapping on the cymbals, combined with an expressive base line by Sam Bevan before Erik Jekabson lays in a plaintive horn line. There are some nice changes in the chord progression, and this often done standard has a fresh feel. Once again the arrangement for trumpet is outstanding.
“I Can’t Help It” by Betty Carter is handled with ease. I can hear Carter’s influence in Claburn’s vocal approach. Her tempo is right in the pocket, her tone is clear and her timing unforced.
Her original song “The Fall of Man” is enhanced by another strong arrangement employing some tasty hits at the top with the core trio before it stretches out into a nicely moving medium tempo swing feel, featuring an excellent solo by Teddy Raven on tenor sax.
“Daybreak,” is an introspective song that showcases Sam Bevan on bass. Claburn’s phrasing is superb. The way she stretches out the word “this” on the lyric “this is how the story ends,” is a textbook example of how to use timing to convey an emotion.
Her original song “Colors of Light” is a pleasing bossa nova with lovely soloing by Erik Jekabson on trumpet and some very subtle, tasteful percussion by John Santos.
The CD closes with a brave choice, Claburn’s original song “Steal Away” which opens with Joseph Hébert on cello. Often singers go for the big finish. It is a sign of self-confidence to close with a moody, introspective original in a languid 6/4 meter. In this case, it is a strong choice and a fitting conclusion to a very satisfying collection of songs.
This is a well thought out record, an impressive calling card for a vocalist who has taken the time to grow into herself. There is nothing tentative here, nothing contrived, trite or forced. Nightshade has a seriousness that is at the same time engaging and entertaining.
Much respect is due to Andrea Claburn, a naturally gifted singer who has taken the time and done the hard work necessary to become something more – a very interesting and capable composer and arranger.
Self Produced by Andrea Claburn
Andrea Claburn, vocals
Matt Clark, piano and Fender Rhodes
Sam Bevan, acoustic and electric bass
Alan Hall, drums
Kasey Knudsen, alto sax
Bob Ewing, trombone
John Santos, percussion
Erick Jekabson, trumpet and flugelhorn
Terrene Brewer, acoustic and electric guitar
Mads Tolling, violin and viola
Joseph Hébert, cello
Teddy Raven, tenor sax
All arrangements by Andrea Claburn, except for track 7, arranged by Ruthie Dineen and Andrea Claburn
Recorded at Fantasy Studios, Berkeley, California
Engineered and Mixed by Dan Feiszli
Mastered by Greg Reierson