by Constance Tucker
The Heart Of Infinite Change, is re-release of a 2015 album from songwriter-vocalist Natasha Agrama. Now on World Galaxy-Alpha Pup Records, the 7 tune album sports one new addition track “Lover Man,” and subtracts four cuts from the earlier album. The album consists of originals from Agrama, selections from Joni Mitchell, Henderson, Mingus, Ellington, Landesman, and Bilal.
Produced by jazz giant and father, Stanley Clarke, the offering features Austin Peralta, George Duke, Stephen “Thundercat” Bruner, Ronald Bruner Jr., Kamasi Washington, Vinnie Colaiuta, Miles Mosley and Ruslan Sirota, and of course Agrama who leaves no doubt she is a truth-teller of stories with her honey-dripped jazz-blues voice.
Joe Henderson’s classic “Black Narcissus” begins the disc, with hip instrumentation and Agrama vocalizing atop Austin Peralta’s keyboard work, with a funky distorted almost Stranger Things electronic vibe. Duke Ellington’s “In A Sentimental Mood” is also given a Rhodes vibe and is presented in a silken dreamlike feel. Agrama’s voice is focused and introspective, yet organic and believable, the addition of electronic strings gives it a lush dreamy canvas of colorful contours.
Bilal’s “All Matter” is a cross-over jazz tune, that is still timely and relevant and speaks to social empowerment. Strongly supported the celebrated George Duke and bass by her dad, Stanley Clarke who guests three tracks. Agrama radiates and resonates on this tune, her conviction is evident, and this track exudes passionate delivery on all cylinders.
Switching gears, The Johnny Mercer and Harold Arlen selection “I Wonder What Became Of Me” is a soulful burn and again, Agrama evokes a believable delivery. What struck me most about Agrama is she has an honest voice, one that does not feel contrived, which unfortunately I find too oft with jazz vocal releases. Maybe it is her background in other genres that lends this honesty, but it’s refreshing none the less.
The album closes with a forlorn “The Ballad Of The Sad Young Men,” penned by Fran Landesman’s most notably recorded by Roberta Flack. Agrama’s down-tempo version is a fitting exit to a delightful offering by young vocalist who can certainly, as proven by this disc, hold her own in jazz and other genres. The Los Angeles scene can be at times, a bit slanted towards the west-coast swing genre, it is a welcomed and refreshing change that even though covering standards among other non-jazz standard tunes, Agrama infinitely puts her style on each tune.