by Constance Tucker
Jazz bassist and singer-songwriter Nicole Saphos has always drawn from the rich and elegant melodies and clever lyrics of The Great American Songbook. This archetype of stories combined with music sophistication resonated deeply with Saphos from a very young age. To get closer to the music, she dedicated her life to studying and performing it. Now, the young songstress and seasoned musician, releases her debut album, Tiptoe; a collection of imaginatively arranged standards, and originals organized around a journey of personal revelation.
Tiptoe is also an apt description of the ten-songed album, four of which are Saphos originals. Presented in a trio format with Saphos on upright bass & vocals, John Lee on guitar and Ele Rubenstein on drums. The music is gently buoyant and airy, sonically grounded by Saphos’ solid bass playing and her warm vocals, Tiptoe may lightly tread in numbers, but the music is full and rewarding.
Kicking things off is a fine version of “Just One of Those Things.” Saphos’ bass sound is full and focused; her vocal style is energetic and rich in the tradition, yet distinctively stylistic. Lee’s guitar solo is spirited and full of musicality. Rubenstein’s cymbal work is excellent and Lee seems to be inspired by its subtly during his solo.
Saphos’ originals are enjoyable and in line with the standards sonic properties. Her original, “Lady Hip’s Great Escape” is a fun medium up-tempo tune with a well-crafted delineated and unhurried melody. Lee again captures the delicate spirit, one that is simultaneously energetic and sensitive, with his guitar phrases, he modulates catchy pattern to form an excellent solo statement. Saphos’ vocal style is understated and a charming additive that is a sign of her confidence and commitment to her musical craft.