By J.D. Considine | Published January 2020
It’s hard not to be impressed by the amount of work Carmen Lundy puts in on Modern Ancestors. Not only did she do all the writing, she sings lead on all the tracks, and provides keyboards, guitars and/or percussion on most. And on the bluesy “Burden Down, Burden Down,” where she plays synth, guitar and tambourine, as well as sings, the combination really smokes, with Lundy bringing the harmonic sophistication of jazz to the immediacy of soul singing.
Unlike the widely praised Code Noir, which found her sticking with a straightahead quartet anchored by the redoubtable Patrice Rushen, Modern Ancestors relies on an assortment of studio players. While that allows her more stylistic range, it leaves the album with a less consistent sound. Immediately following the rhythmically charged Cubano groove of “Ola De Calor” comes “Flowers And Candles,” a socially conscious ballad that blends awkward lyrics with a dreamily meandering melody. One has heat and focus, the other good intentions, but lukewarm sentiment.
The best moments come when Lundy ignores structure and delivers her lyrics with a line that seems less composed than improvised. “Jazz On TV” is a case in point, with a whimsical lyric imagining a world in which jazz is as popular as chat shows. There’s a lovely groove, and her harmonized backing vocals recall the soulful side of Joni Mitchell. But it’s the way her rhythmically fluid, tonally adventurous melody evokes a saxophone solo that makes her dream of popular jazz seem so appealing.
Modern Ancestors: A Time For Peace; Burden Down, Burden Down; Ola De Calor; Flowers And Candles; Jazz On TV; Meant For Each Other; Eye Of The Storm; Clear Blue Skies; Affair Brazil; Still. (51:42)
Personnel: Carmen Lundy, vocals, keyboards, guitar (2, 6, 9), tambourine (2); Julius Rodriguez, piano; Andrew Renfroe, guitar; Curtis Lundy, bass (1, 3, 4, 10); Kenny Davis, electric bass (2, 3, 7), bass; Terreon Gully, Kassa Overall, drums (2, 5, 8, 9); Mayra Casales, percussion (2, 3, 7, 8, 9).