Kandace Springs

The Women Who Raised Me
(Blue Note)

Recruiting an array of high-profile guests for a disc can be a risky endeavor. If the results are mediocre, then the leader might be accused of riding on others’ coattails. But when the results are strong, new fans could see the leader in a different light. Skeptics can be won over via this logic: “If she’s keeping company with these mighty collaborators, perhaps she does, indeed, belong among them.” Such is the case with singer/keyboardist Kandace Springs’ fourth Blue Note release, The Women Who Raised Me.

On the CD packaging, the track listing includes the names of the boldface guests: bassist Christian McBride, alto saxophonist David Sanborn, tenor saxophonist Chris Potter, singer/pianist Norah Jones, trumpeter Avishai Cohen and Elena Pinderhughes, who topped the category Rising Star–Flute in the 2016 DownBeat Critics Poll. Among that parade of notable guests, Springs remains the key figure and primary reason to seek out this collection, as her fluid pianism and emotive vocals soar in this setting. Producer Larry Klein has crafted a disc that combines sonic elegance with musical muscle.

On this 12-track program of covers, the leader—the daughter of singer Kenneth “Scat” Springs—pays tribute to the female vocalists who caught her ear as a youngster, including Ella Fitzgerald, Billie Holiday, Carmen McRae, Nina Simone, Roberta Flack, Sade, Bonnie Raitt and Lauryn Hill.

Springs’ reading of “I Put A Spell On You” is spiced with Sanborn’s potent alto, plus a nod to Beethoven’s “Moonlight Sonata” and some fine scat-singing. Elsewhere, an interpretation of Duke Ellington’s “(In My) Solitude” showcases a delicate touch on piano and great tenor work by Potter.

When Springs was a kid, she was mesmerized by Jones’ version of “The Nearness of You” on her 2002 debut, Come Away With Me (Blue Note). Today, Springs is signed to Blue Note, and her new album includes a version of that same standard. Springs and Jones’ arrangement of “Angel Eyes” finds the two artists trading vocal lines and sturdy instrumental passages, featuring the leader on Wurlitzer and her guest on piano. Sometimes fate favors the gifted.