By Carlo Wolff | Published November 2018
A captivating mix of covers and originals, Arianna Neikrug’s debut introduces a singer-songwriter of daring and versatility. Produced by pianist and arranger Laurence Hobgood, this polished album pushes the jazz envelope with style.
Neikrug, a Los Angeles native, won the 2015 Sarah Vaughan International Jazz Vocal Competition shortly after graduating from the Frost School of Music at the University of Miami. Her singing is free and fearless from the start here, and on “No Moon At All,” she sings full-throated and scats, her voice light until she leans into the song.
Neikrug replaces the innocent aspiration of the Jackson 5’s “I’ll Be There” with something far more mature, and transforms Al Green’s groove-heavy “Let’s Stay Together.” But she doesn’t fare as well with the Joni Mitchell “Help Me/Be Cool” medley that caps the album.
The originals on Changes stand out for their candor and warmth. The title track, a samba with a lovely, querulous melody, speaks to Neikrug’s childhood, while “New York Song” is a love letter to her adopted city. Neikrug sings beyond her years, and while her technique and flexibility are striking, it’s her soulfulness that startles and lingers.
Changes: No Moon At All; Spring Can Really Hang You Up The Most; Let’s Stay Together; Changes; Never Let Me Go/I’ll Be There; The Song Is You; New York Song; After You’ve Gone; Devil May Care; Help Me/Be Cool. (48:23)
Personnel: Arianna Neikrug, vocals; Laurence Hobgood, piano; Matt Clohesy, bass; Jared Schonig, drums.