Jul 27, 2021 10:30 AM
John Pizzarelli’s Ode to Pat Metheny
It was in his darkest hour, during the early stages of the 2020 lockdown, that guitarist-vocalist John Pizzarelli…
Riggins, in turn, appreciated the creative space she gave him when they started collaborating. “That’s what I love about Kandace,” he says. “She left the responsibility on me to just do what I do. I hear where she’s going: She’s pushing the envelope, doing innovative music. There were no boundaries. We didn’t put Indigo in a box.”
Casting musicians wasn’t too difficult; each agreed that Krall’s guitarist Anthony Wilson and bassist Bob Hurst would fit right in, with Kandace on piano and Riggins playing or programming drums. Then they began considering the best ways to arrange the songs they had selected. For Kandace, this was an exhilarating opportunity, a freedom she hadn’t allowed herself while intentionally staying “inside the box” on her first album.
“We did Soul Eyes almost completely live,” she points out. “We were all in a circle, looking at each other as we tracked. We cut two or three songs a day for a week straight that way—before [doing any] editing and overdubs. That’s how I wanted it. Indigo goes to a lot more places. I was thinking about Nina Simone as we worked because she played everything—a Beatles song, a classical piece, some jazz stuff. That’s who I am. That’s what I wanted to show this time.”
Her vision is fulfilled on Indigo. Only one of its tracks—“Unsophisticated,” featuring trumpeter Roy Hargrove—might have been appropriate to include on Soul Eyes. It’s a slow-burn ballad, the most jazz-influenced song in the program. Significantly, she wrote it years ago with Rogers and Sturken, who also produced it for Indigo.
“Unsophisticated” is just one flower in a varied bouquet. A strong hip-hop sensibility emerges elsewhere, particularly on “Fix Me” and “Piece Of Me,” where Riggins lays down a steady-eighths beat and silences it out at strategic points for a few bars. “The first group I ever heard doing those kinds of drops was A Tribe Called Quest,” he says. “They were an amazing influence in giving me a different approach to dynamics, where Kandace’s voice and what she’s saying need to take you on a ride.”
Again unlike Soul Eyes, parts of Indigo are left open for the leader to stretch out with wordless vocal improvisation, particularly on “Six Eight” and “Piece Of Me.”
“To me, that’s like painting a picture, kind of like Erykah Badu does, when she purposefully goes slightly flat and slows down her vibrato like a Rhodes electric piano,” Kandace says. “Music with no words is an open road, so you can sing completely from your heart.”
No track on Indigo is more personal than the closer. Kandace and Scat wrote “Simple Things” years ago for an album they recorded, but never released. A stroke sidelined her father early in 2017; as his slow but steady recovery continues, he has had to put his career on hold. By retrieving his vocals from the original recording and adding new vocals and keyboard accompaniment, his daughter honors Scat’s dream of someday making a guest appearance on one of her albums.
Assessing the emotional and artistic terrain reflected by Indigo, Kandace comments, “I’m just growing. That’s just natural as time goes on. Every time I feel like, ‘Man, this is hard,’ I’ve got to correct myself. Because this is what I’ve been waiting to do. Not everybody gets this opportunity, to go around the world and do these things.”
So, has she ever thought about doing a tour in a classic convertible that she has customized, its top down and the breeze in her hair? Kandace laughs before concluding, “I’m not mad at that.” DB
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