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VALERIE GHENT

Velours

WEST STREET RECORDS WSR0502 [52:45]

 

 

Love Divine

It’s Got to be You

New York City Streets

Light in my Life

On and On

Get Funkay

Velours

Linger

Phased (Reggae)

30 Days

Love Will Keep Me Strong

Valerie Ghent (vocals): Tinkr Barfield (bass): Robin Macatangay and Jérôme Buigues (guitars):

Bashiri Johnson (percussion): Rob Mounsey (keyboard/arranger): Kevin Johnson, Philippe Jardin, Franck Taieb (drums): Pierre Sibille (organ): Mano Korani Camara, Alfa Anderson, Keith Fluitt, Dennis Collins, John James (vocals): Dave Eggar (cello): Steven Bernstein, Marc Borlet-Hôte (trumpet): Paul Shapiro, Nicolas Baudino (saxophone): Dan Levine (trombone)

Recorded Systems Two, Brooklyn, NYC and Studio Blues’Up and Soultune Studios, France

 

Recorded in Provence and New York, this Franco-American album bears the hallmarks of refined integration. That said there is a big personnel listing reflecting the differing line-ups during the sessions; there are no fewer than five backing vocalists, to whom one should also add Valerie Ghent herself on a number of tracks. All the songs are either compositions by Ghent, singer and keyboard player throughout, or co-compositions with some of her fellow musicians. There are no standards.

Love Divine is a fluent opus with vocal harmonies, a French-language interpolation, strong bass lines and a generally funky vibe. In fact, funkiness is Ghent’s métier, though not funkiness alone, as she demonstrates in It’s Got To Be You – obviously, given the foregoing not the famous version – where the feel is cooler. The sense of a 70s or 80s soundtrack emerges clearly in New York City Streets with its relaxed aura augmented by her clean piano figures and exultant finger-clicking rhythm. A slow, pensive element is introduced in Light in my Life where the ensemble, initially just Ghent singing at the keyboard, expands with Gospel hints and an element of a pop sensibility; it may take things further from the jazz heartland but it’s particularly attractive on its own terms. As per the title Get Funkay serves up a dose of git-on-down, with funky guitar and the sound of the on-the-face-of-it decidedly unfunkay clavinet (not clarinet). Again, it seems to work.

The laid-back title track is expertly done and the slow ballad Linger, with its deft guitar and string backing, is subtly coloured. Phased introduces a dose of rock guitar ‘n’ Reggae, just to take the stylistic variety of the album even wider whilst the optimistically titled Love Will Keep Me Strong delivers a rocky, easy-to-like but hard-to-remember envoi. It’s a slightly disappointing end to an album that covers musical bases on a number of fronts. Does it cohere? I think it tries to do too much; too many contributing artists, too much stylistic variance. But I like Ghent’s unassuming vocal prowess and keyboard playing and much else.

Jonathan Woolf


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